Thursday, August 11, 2011

Maybe I Do And Maybe I Don't

via The Village Voice, By Steven Thrasher

Kevin Beauchamp, 49, and Howard Orlick, 50, are both legally blind. Kevin is thin and wiry; his vision loss is degenerative, and eventually he'll go completely blind. For now, he sees a little through one eye, making out shapes when there is enough contrast. With the aid of adaptive software, he's able to read modified text when he's not too tired.

Don't Ask, Don't TellBrian BrownKevin BeauchampSame-Sex MarriageLGBT IssuesHoward is broad and muscular. Because of a genetic condition, he sees nothing in daylight. The sun's light acts on him like snow blindness. But at night, he has some vision. During the day, Kevin's dwindling vision is enough for him to get by with a cane. But at night, it's Howard who guides Kevin as they walk together.

For nine years, they've been together, relying on each other to get down the street and up steps and around corners, so that they could do what had been a major part of their forties—protesting for the right of gay couples to marry.

They carried a banner together in the National Equality March in D.C. (Howard admits that he worried about falling in a manhole.) And Kevin was arrested last March while participating in a demonstration that shut down the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street at rush hour, even though police didn't seem interested in cuffing a blind man carrying a white cane.

"The cops looked at me and passed me right by," Kevin says, laughing as he adds, "Of course, I didn't know that at the time."

The NYPD officers handcuffed Kevin only after another of the protesters complained, "He's with us! Arrest him, too!"

Both men have been hard at work fighting for gay rights in their forties. They each buried previous partners in their thirties.

Howard says that when his late partner, Peter, died, his family didn't treat him like a widower, even though "we were just like a married couple—the only thing was that we couldn't get married."

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