It’s not every couple that can say they were both Eagle Scouts.
“We’re really similar, so we get along pretty well,” said Tommy Craig. He and Josh Wells were united in the first civil union performed at Littleton’s Arapahoe County Courthouse on May 1, the day the law making the unions legal in Colorado took effect.
Matt Crane, Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder, said seven couples obtained civil-union licenses in the county that day, and none was issued the next day.
Craig and Wells do have a lot in common, enjoying camping, hiking, biking, running and snowshoeing together. They even look enough alike that people often assume they’re brothers.
“We don’t walk hand-in-hand places like straight couples would,” said Wells. It took time for them to be comfortable enough to say something other than that they’re friends or roomates, not brothers.
“Now I say, ‘No, that’s my husband,’” said Wells, an aerospace engineer.
The Highlands Ranch couple has been together for 12 years. They had a commitment ceremony in September 2004, in front of about 100 guests. Their parents walked them down the aisle, they exchanged rings and lighted a unity candle. They both wore white tuxedoes and had a maid of honor and a best man each.
“We just wanted to make the commitment to each other and have it be acknowledged by our friends and family,” said Wells.
They’ve considered themselves married ever since, and will continue to say they are married — “civilly unioned” or “civil united” just don’t roll off the tongue as easily.
“When marriage becomes an option, we’ll do that too,” said Craig, dean of a middle school.
The two actually tried to have the ceremony several hours before they did, joining in the Civil Soiree at midnight in the Denver Civic Center. By 3 a.m. only 80 or so civil unions had been completed. Craig and Wells held number 109, so they called it a night.
“But it was fun to be part of the hoopla,” said Wells.
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, officiated some civil unions that night at the nearby Webb Municipal Building.
“This is an exciting breakthrough for a large segment of our population that was being discriminated against,” she said. “If the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government, I think, will have to honor state law.”
Wells’ and Craig’s civil union was far simpler than the soiree. They obtained their license, then Judge Christine Shauche performed a brief ceremony.
“We got to say our vows again,” said Craig.
Both Craig and Wells are encouraged by the progress that’s been made toward marriage equality and think it will continue. They tell of the 9-year-old daughter of a friend who, upon hearing they were having a ceremony, said she thought they were already married.
“I’m encouraged to see the younger generation thinking it’s not a thing, it’s not a big deal,” said Wells.
But they know there are still obstacles and attitudes that need to change, even some of their own.
“My advice to younger kids is really to just be yourself,” said Wells. “The more people see gay people around them, the more they’ll accept it. A lot of times, you’re your own worst enemy.”
Craig said changing jobs can be like coming out all over again, because people tend to assume everyone is straight.
“I put a lot on myself,” he said. “Sometimes it’s easier not to correct, so I don’t. I think people can handle it, but in my mind, I think they’re going to freak out.”
They’ve heard about other couples who are shunning civil unions in protest, holding out for full marriage equality.
“I understand it, and I think it’s a valid idea,” said Wells. “We were just happy it passed, and we wanted to make it legal and get all the rights.”
Craig noted that lots of straight couples don’t last as long as they have, and wonders why some think it’s just gay couples who threaten the sanctity of marriage.
“I don’t know what people are so afraid of, and what kinds of doors they think it would open,” he said.