En español | On the day New York passed its marriage equality law, in June 2011, Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte lay in a Manhattan hospital bed with an intestinal infection. That scenario, says his partner, Humberto “Tico” Torres, convinced them to take advantage of the new law and get married.
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Despite 27 years of devotion and commitment to each other, they had no legal standing as a couple. Without being married, neither the hospital — nor any other institution — would recognize them as next-of-kin or allow one to make medical decisions if the other were incapacitated.
“We realized that we really had no rights, that anything could happen to us at any time and we weren’t protected,” says Torres.
After Rodriguez-Duarte, 49, recovered, he and Torres, 50, signed up for a lottery to determine which gay and lesbian New Yorkers would be the first to legally marry in the Empire State. They said, “I do” on that historic first day: July 24, 2011.
Only New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. When it comes to the rest of the country, gays and lesbians do not have the choice — or the newly acquired benefits that come with it — that was presented to Rodriguez-Duarte and Torres.
“It was a beautiful day,” says Torres, “but bittersweet because [same-sex marriage is] a right being rejected across the country.”
As gay Latinos, photographer Rodriguez-Duarte and fashion stylist Torres consider themselves a minority within a minority. While some gay and lesbian Hispanics believe that Americans are more accepting of same-sex unions than people in their native countries, the couple isn’t so sure about tolerance in the Land of the Free.
Next: The right to decide. >>