After 37 Years, We Still Can’t Marry in PA

Earl Ball & Timothy Hare | Easton, PA

For the last quarter-century, Earl Ball and Timothy Hare have been living in Easton, Pennsylvania, where they have been active residents, deeply invested in their community. 

But since Tim and Earl live in Pennsylvania, where same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry, their marriage is not respected and they don't have access to the basic state-level protections of marriage. Because of that, they've decided that after 25 years of living in Pennsylvania, they need to move to a state that respects their marriage. (Above photo by Easton Patch: Tom Coombe)

"They placed a burden on us," Earl said about the state's anti-marriage law. He presented their options - "Either we move, or we stay and fight and live long enough to see it change" - but ultimately, they decided that they can't wait any longer. They need respect for their marriage where they live. 

Tim, an architect, and Earl, a U.C.C. minister, are now looking for a place to live in New York City. When they move, they'll be returning to the city where they met - the city where they lived together for eight years before moving to Easton. They shared the story of how they met with I'm From Driftwood, a website that collects the stories of LGBT people across the country. Watch the video telling their story (Above photo by Associated Press - Craig Ruttle):

Tim and Earl have led a long life together. They spent their first Christmas together in 1976 in New York City. 

They moved to Pennsylvania eight years later, and they married in Canada in 2003. "We were engaged to be married for 27 years - that's a long engagement," Tim said. "But When we crossed the border back to Pennsylvania, we became legal strangers again, on our honeymoon."

In 2009, they worked with state leaders to introduce a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature that would extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples across the state. At the introduction of the bill, which ultimately was not moved out of committee, Tim and Earl made the case for why marriage matters. "We're legal strangers in the state in which we pay taxes," Tim said. "We contribute enormously to this commonwealth, and yet we are denied the basic civil and human rights that are afforded to my heterosexual siblings and families of origin. They don't think it's right, and we don't think it's right." 

Both men are 66 years old and retired, and as they grow older, they realize more than ever why it's important to have the freedom to marry. They're already too familiar with the fragility of life - Tim is in his seventh year of remission from advanced cancer, and he and Earl are conscious that each day is a blessing. "We don't know how much time we have," Tim said. "And now that we're in our older years, we feel especially vulnerable being legal strangers," Earl added. "Civil marriage is the only guarantee of a vast array of protections and benefits." (Above Photo by Pennsylvania Diversity Network)

Tim and Earl say that while it may be fitting for them to move to New York City - ending, they said, in the city where they began - it's disappointing that Pennsylvania's anti-marriage laws have left them with little other choice. 

They've already put their house up for sale, and both men have reflected that it's hard to let go of the state and the house that they've called home for so long. Tim even compared his feelings about selling the old Victorian home and leaving their community to going through the stages of grief. 

"It's with great relief and sadness that we make this choice," Tim said. "But we have to stop pretending that we have civil rights in Pennsylvania." (Above Photo by Gay Marriage USA)

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