Richard Taylor and Ray Vahey, who were together for 49 years but did not speak openly about their relationship until anti-gay forces in their home state of Wisconsin compelled them to leave their “silent generation” behind and come forward, have been parted by the death of Taylor last Friday. He was 81.
Spurred by the proposed Wisconsin amendment to ban gay marriage, Taylor and Vahey decided to begin speaking publicly about their relationship last June. Vahey described the difficulties of having a relationship in the closeted 1950’s as “an exaggerated version of don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Last December, I posted about the couple after they made an appearance at a state hearing against the proposed Wisconsin amendment. At that time, Vahey said, “Richard and I met and fell in love in 1956. For 49 years, we have yearned for a marriage recognized in America. Yet until this year, we had never come out in a public way. We decided this cause is not only worth it to us but to millions of others…”
He added, “Euphemisms like ‘partnership’ or ‘union’ set us apart from society,” Vahey said at the Legislative hearing last fall. “Substitute terms that categorize and separate us become our yellow Star of David badges. . . . Here at home, African-Americans learned long ago that ‘separate but equal’ is not equal.”
Taylor was a naval veteran who served on a tanker in the North Pacific, Mediterranean, and South Pacific during World War II, said Vahey: “Richard voluntarily put himself into harm’s way to protect his country and the rights of all Americans of that day, and all of the generations that have followed. Now there is an attempt to separate Richard from society and take away his right to equality under the law.”
Vahey and Taylor had planned a wedding anniversary for September 16, which would have been the couple’s 50th anniversary. Now, the day will hold a special memorial event for Taylor, which will also serve as a fundraiser to fight the proposed anti-gay amendment.
Talk about serving one’s country in so many ways! Every Congressional member who is against same-sex marriage or gays in the military should know the story of Vahey and Taylor, model citizens and everyman American heroes.
Our thanks go out to them, and our condolences go out to Ray Vahey on the loss of his partner.
A Life of Love was Made Public in the End [milwaukee journal sentinel]