Niles couple plans wedding after Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling
Published 9:12 am Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Long time Niles couple Joseph Gress and Ron Robinson did not have a chance to immediately celebrate upon learning that the U.S. Supreme Court had voted that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.
Gress, a computer programmer who works from home, was on a conference call when the news popped up on his phone.
“I wanted to hoot and holler, but I had to stay in the meeting and wait until it was over,” he said.
Robinson, a manager of a mental health center in Niles, was at work with a client when he saw the news on his phone.
“I always expected it would go through because we had 32 states that had already passed it and I couldn’t imagine that the Supreme Court would not pass it,” he said. “Maybe that was naiveté… luckily it came out that way.”
When Robinson returned home for lunch Friday afternoon to celebrate with Gress, he was met with a kiss and a marriage proposal.
“I said, ‘yes,’” Robinson said. “It was a very romantic and tender moment. That’s how we greeted the news.”
The two are in the process of planning a wedding next June in Niles, where they have lived together since the mid 1990s.
Gress and Robinson first met at a Christmas party at the University of Notre Dame in 1988.
“It is like the old song, ‘Across a Crowded Room,’” Robinson said. “I saw Joseph and he looked very interesting. He came over and talked to me… I thought, ‘now this is a man I could marry.’”
With marriage not an option for same-sex couples in Michigan, the two did the next best thing — they had a commitment ceremony at Tabor Hill Winery in October of 1992.
“We made a commitment to be there for each other and to be in a relationship like married people are, but we didn’t have any legal standing,” Robinson said. “What happened Friday changes all that.”
Both say the Supreme Court decision will have a positive impact on their lives.
Robinson, who works for a government entity, said the decision means that his pension could go to Gress in the event that Robinson dies.
“The continuance of that pension that I’ve paid into is only payable to a spouse,” he said. “Once we get married, Joe would continue to also receive benefits from that as well.”
The Supreme Court decision, they said, would also make it easier for them to legally make end-of-life decisions for one another when that day comes. It would also help with insurance.
Those issues aside, both said the decision is a reflection of the U.S. becoming more accepting of the LGBT community.
“It marks that the country has come a long way from where it was 10 or 20 years ago,” Gress said. “From my perspective, it doesn’t seem like a lot of people think this is an awful thing or the end — a lot of people are supportive.”
Both thanked the Niles community for being accepting of them for the past 20 years.
“Niles has been a wonderful place for us to live,” Robinson said. “A lot of people know us and the community has been very supportive of us, so we haven’t had negative backlash here, which says a lot about Niles.”