When Tom and Brad first met, they knew right away. In February 1998, the two met in an online chat room for 2 weeks before exchanging phone numbers and chatting on the phone for another two weeks, then finally meeting in person. “When you know it’s right, you know it’s right,” says Brad. They describe themselves as just different enough to balance one another. “We don’t fit a formula,” says Tom. “We’re not polar opposites; we’re not similar, but we’re a fit, a tight fit.” Tom often is the one bouncing off the walls, while Brad is there to bring him to the ground.
Tom and Brad did not feel the need to actively fight for their right to be together until those around them tried to keep them apart during one of the most difficult times of their lives. Six years into their relationship, on March 30, 2004, Brad was involved in a major car accident on Interstate 71 North, near Ashland. His car collided with a semi, and while the other passengers in his car went home after the accident, Brad was not so lucky. He suffered a skull fracture with brain injuryand collapsed lungs and was in a coma. It was unknown if he would awake from his coma, and if he did, if he would be the same person he was before the accident.
“A few months after the accident, he didn’t even know who I was,” says Tom. To make matters worse, Brad’s parents prevented Tom from visiting Brad in the hospital. “I was not to be in the room while they were in the room, and by their request, they were always in the room. I spent more time sitting on the curb or in my car than at his bedside because of his parents,” Tom recalls. “We had been together—living together—for six years at the time.”
Brad’s mother tried to have Tom banned from the room, but the staff at The Ohio State Medical Center refused. That same year, the gay marriage ban in Ohio went into effect. The hospital only allowed two people in the ICU room at one time, so Tom always had to be one step ahead of the rest of Brad’s family to make sure he was always one of two people present. “If we were legal spouses, nobody would have considered that kind of behavior,” says Tom. “It got so bad that I wasn’t able to ask the staff questions about his condition, and they were not allowed to respond.”
The first time Brad recognized Tom, several weeks later, Brad grabbed his hand and proclaimed: “Hey everyone, this is Tom. He’s my beau!”
As Brad’s condition continued to improve, the hospital released Brad to Tom, despite continued pushback from Brad’s family. Friends and family came together to help take care of Brad and look after him, making sure he was never alone, 24 hours a day, and everyone was happy to do it because he’s such a likeable guy. “Everybody just loves the shit out of him,” says Tom. “He’s just got the friendly ‘draw people in’ kind of attitude.”
Until marriage equality comes to the state of Ohio, they say they won’t marry. “We will never get legally married as long as we have to jump through hoops to file tax returns,” says Brad. “We are happy day-to-day,” says Tom. “We have each other. We have a home. We really do have what we need, except that we’re not protected legally. While we fight, we’re still happy to be together and to have one another, so I really don’t like the thought that bigots are making us miserable. They are a pain in the ass, but they are not stopping our happiness.”