Bill & Mark: Love, Loss & Courage

April 12, 2012

Post image for Bill & Mark: Love, Loss & Courage

Anniversary: October 23rd From: Cleveland, OH

Let me introduce Bill and Mark Corcoran. Nope they aren’t brothers they’re married. This misconception triggered because Mark chose to legally take Bill’s last name has enabled countless “courageous conversations” about LGBT issues through the years. Although, Mark says he doesn’t feel too courageous just honest, and Bill even seeks out the opportunity to bring up his husband during customer service telephone calls. One thing is for sure, it doesn’t take long to realize that Mark and Bill are fabulous ambassadors for the LGBT community. Point and case the below video testimonial from Mark and Bill.

Mark, originally from Maryland, moved to Cleveland when he met his first love Tony. In Cleveland, Mark became highly involved in gay social events and Tony’s and his cemetery management start-up. They achieved great success through their business and later sold it, enabling Mark to retire at 47. Mark used his new freedom to explore his interest in food. He worked for a chocolatier, a baker and even Williams-Sonoma. Tony and Mark enjoyed many years together as partners in both life and business. Tragically, Mark was widowed after 30 years together with Tony.

Mark, not looking for love, met Bill when he was in Cleveland for business. Bill was a music director and worked for a playhouse in Louisville, Kentucky. He was in Cleveland working on a production of “My Fair Lady”. A connection quickly developed between the two and by the time Bill had to leave Cleveland they had already been on several dates. They continued the relationship long distance for 6 months. During this time, Mark was wary of making another long-term commitment. He felt disloyal to his late partner and was reluctant to take plunge into another relationship. What ultimately won over Mark’s heart was this loving sentiment from Bill: “Will you dance with me? You lead, I follow or I lead, you follow. We can’t fall if we hold each other.”

Several years later on vacation in Connecticut, Mark and Bill were inspired to seize the moment after hearing a speech by Cleve Jones (a LGBT activist that worked with Harvey Milk). The main appeal of his speech was to take your rights where you can get them. So Mark and Bill did. They were married during that trip by a justice of the peace in Branford, Connecticut. Although they had already committed themselves to each other, they recognize this ceremony as their anniversary (October 23).

Sadly, this marriage is not recognized in their home state Ohio or on the federal level. This causes countless injustices and severe inequality for LGBT married couples like Mark and Bill. Mark sees the lack of property rights and inheritance as the largest injustice. Without going through a complicated legal process, property cannot be transferred to a surviving partner. The fact that pension and Social Security benefits are not transferable is top of mind for Mark as well. They both suggest doing your homework and ensuring that you work to address the many legal holes that marriage inequality causes.

So what are Mark and Bill up to today? They both enjoy volunteering and staying involved in the community. Bill was recently named the volunteer coordinator for RiverGanga, a virtual organization based in California. Mark is still pursuing his love of food and is known as the Food Fairy, his restaurant and food critic alias.

From their years of experience, what advice do Mark and Bill have for LGBT individuals in relationships or looking for one? Mark encourages them to be honest and kind to each other, which starts with being honest and kind to yourself. Bill believes one of the most important steps is to revel in the moment and savor the present time you have together. Both agree that you must take the offensive when it comes to pushing for and taking advantage of your rights. Maybe their story will inspire you to stop playing defense and pursue some courageous conversations or actions of your own.