In 2014, rights for gay and lesbian Americans are still being jeopardized, with only 17 states legally recognizing same-sex marriage and 33 states having same-sex marriage bans. Newly engaged couple Jeff Robertson and Jeremiah Pyant, happen to live in Texas, one of the many states where same-sex marriage is illegal. But the happily in love partners are more than making do. They are taking action in order to show the world that Black, gay love is just like any other kind.
The couple found out about the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s wedding contest, My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding, and entered. The ACLU partnered with fashion expert and reality television star Tim Gunn for the competition event, which aims to shed light on the marriage equality movement and offers $5,000 towards a wedding in a state where same-sex marriage is legal to five chosen same-sex couples who live in states where it is illegal. Jeff and Jeremiah are one of over 300 couples who have entered the contest and the pair agreed to share their story with Ebony.com.
Jeff took several months to plan a surprise beach-front proposal at the couple’s favorite resort in Mexico last December. “I had no clue,” recounted Jeremiah. “Jeff actually had a letter sent to our home saying that they were celebrating the resort’s anniversary and they wanted us in the promotional video, since we were such loyal customers. So, I thought all the cameras and everything were for that.”
At the end of a rose petal strewn pathway, Jeff got down on one knee and proposed to Jeremiah on camera. Jeremiah jumped and screamed his affirmation (he says there was a “yes” in there) as Jeff conceded that he didn’t know which finger to put the ring on. Jeremiah was more than happy to help him with that.
Jeff and Jeremiah met on an airplane when Jeff was a passenger and Jeremiah was the flight attendant. A long-distance relationship blossomed via technology and phone calls. Months later, on their first date, Jeremiah declared that they would one day marry. Eventually, Jeff and Jeremiah began living together in Milwaukee and obtained domestic partnership status, which is the most a same-sex couple can get in Wisconsin. Jeff’s job took the couple to Houston, Texas, where they now reside, one of the 33 states where same-sex marriage is illegal.
WATCH: Jeff's Surprise Proposal
Jeff surprises his partner Jeremiah with a marriage proposal on their vacation
Currently, the couple is in a distant third place out of the top four couples featured (over 300 couples total) on the contest’s website. As to what they would do with the $5,000, they say, road trip! “If we win, we would use the money to [drive] from Texas to Minnesota. We enjoy Minnesota and we can have a legal ceremony and get a marriage license there. We’ll also have a ceremony in Milwaukee where Jeff has strong ties. We would make a lot of stops along the way, like to the world’s largest rocking chair and fun stuff like that. We also like that show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives [on the Food Network], so we’d stop at places like the ones featured on there,” said Jeremiah.
Of course, Jeff and Jeremiah would like to win the contest, but for them, it’s about more than just the cash prize. “I think a lot of people were surprised to see two Black men getting married. It’s out there. We’re not leprechauns. It would be good to show the world that we love just like everyone else loves. We represent that,” said Jeff.
And the partners are also looking to combat some of the current representation of Black gay men on television, such as on Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta. “I don’t agree with the depiction of Black gay men on that show," said Jeremiah. "We are not all queens and all dramatic and catty. We are two successful men who are gainfully employed. We are a middle class family. We pay our dues. When I see things like that on TV, I know that’s not how most of us are. So, that’s also why it’s important for us to represent who we are.”
Though Jeff and Jeremiah do not consider themselves to be activists, but they have become more aware of and involved in the gay rights movement. “We definitely believe in gay rights, we always have and we believe we have a responsibility to our community. We just went to the Creating Change Conference here and we walked away with a lot of information. We’re not really trying to be activists, but we definitely want to have information about things and other people should have it too,” said Jeff.
You can vote for Jeff and Jeremiah on the official website until March 27, 2014.