A Navy Veteran’s 50-Year Love Story

Jim Darby & Patrick Bova | Chicago, IL

UPDATED November 2013: Since Jim & Patrick shared their story, same-sex couples in Illinois won the freedom to marry when the state Legislature passed a marriage bill in November 2013. 

Jim Darby, a proud veteran, was born 80 years ago on the south side of Chicago. He worked in the stockyards before enlisting in the Navy to serve in the Korean War, where he served four years before receiving an honorable discharge.

After his term of service, Jim returned to Illinois, where he continues to live with his partner, Patrick Bova, 73. Jim and Patrick met in 1963 at the University of Chicago. They have been in a committed relationship ever since!

The couple participated in a large civil union ceremony in Chicago’s Millenium Park in June of 2011 (below). But, as they planned for their future and grew older, they began to realize the protections provided to them in their civil union were not enough. They worried that without the critical protections that only marriage can provide, they would be unable to take care of one another and make decisions when they need to most. 

On November 5, 2013, Jim and Patrick celebrated huge news in their home state when the IL House of Representatives voted in favor of the freedom to marry, poising the state for victory and ensuring that loving couples like them would be able to share in the joys of marriage. 

Jim adn Patrick played a vital role in the campaign to win marriage in Illinois. Even though the central part of the so-called Defense Against Marriage Act was struck down in June 2013, Illinois couples in civil unions were continually denied many federal protections.

Jim has always wanted to be buried at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, a national military cemetery, laid to rest alongside Patrick. But until Illinois lawmakers voted to allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry, Patrick was not permitted be buried next to Jim. Jim and Patrick fought, in part, for the freedom to marry so that when they are laid to rest, the couple’s service can be honored in the national cemetery alongside other veterans and their spouses. (Photo by AP)

“After over 50 years together, I have to wonder how our love and commitment to each other is still questioned,” Jim said. “A civil union does not hold the same meaning as marriage, and Patrick and I know our love deserves recognition. We just want to be able to protect each other as we grow older.”

This discrepancy led Jim and Patrick to become the lead plaintiffs in Lambda Legal’s case Darby v. Orr. The case was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on May 30, 2012, one year after civil unions took effect in Illinois. The case is still open in Illinois, with the defeat of the so-called Defense Against Marriage Act sparking a request for swift action in Darby v. Orr. Watch video from Lambda Legal featuring Jim and Patrick:

Jim and Pat are thrilled that fianlly, beginning on June 1, 2014, they will be able to marry, legally, in Illinois. They're excited to see that their advocacy work has paid off. “We have traveled to Springfield many times in support of the marriage bill,” Jim explained. ”Most of our efforts have been concentrated on those Representatives who are veterans and who have served their country.”

And it’s Jim’s experience as a veteran that has solidified his commitment to advocating for freedom in his home state. “In our time lobbying for the bill, I have been able to tell these lawmakers: ‘I have fought for the rights of all Americans. Does that not include LGBT Americans, like myself?’” 

Each day, veterans like Jim are helping to make the case that in Illinois, freedom is what unites us – and that freedom means freedom for everyone. It's amazing and wonderful that Jim and Patrick will finally be able to tie the knot in their home state - but in 35 other states, same-sex couples are still denied the critical protections of marriage. 

After serving their country and contributing to their communities, veterans' love stories remind us that it’s time for all veterans - and all same-sex couples in the country - to be afforded the same paramount freedom afforded to all other families: the freedom to marry the person he loves. (Photo by Taylor Patrick)

Editors' Note: This story has been cross-posted from Illinois Unites for Marriage, the coalition working to pass a marriage bill in Illinois on behalf of amazing couples like Jim and Patrick. This story was edited on November 6, 2013, after a critical vote in the Illinois House that makes it all but certain that Illinois will have the freedom to marry next year 

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