Atop their marriage license is the number 26338 to give it legitimacy and legality.
But marriage means more than the document to Thomas John Williams and Brad Hauger.
Williams is a Youngstowner whose mother, the late Cora Thomas, was a Pentecostal evangelist here.
He’s a Wilson High grad who left town in 2002 — a year after his mother passed away.
T.J., as he goes by, and Brad were wed in October in New York City in a state where gay marriage was officially recognized in June after a state capitol bitter debate. It became state law despite a vote outcome that was uncertain until it came time for voting. It passed by just four votes in a Republican-majority Senate, and four of the votes were Republicans.
It led to new law for New York and new momentum for the national gay rights movement.
Only Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia also allow same-sex marriage. California is embroiled in legal wrangling over same-sex marriage. State court approved it in 2008; voters repealed it later that year; the repeal was overturned in federal court; and that ruling is now under appeal.
To T.J. and Brad, it simply means legally solidifying a relationship that started in 2003. That relationship put them at the front of many same-sex marriage conversations over the years, and eventually to a NYC altar.
On Tuesday, it will put them on the pages of The Vindicator as the first same-sex marriage announcement in our history.
We publish hundreds of stories each week, and a select few we bring to your attention ahead of time so that you notice them. Weddings are typically not such items.
But we’d be naïve to think that the Tuesday announcement for T.J. and Brad will go unnoticed. We’d rather you not be surprised. We also expect there could be some community conversation about it, and we’d like it to start with our explaining.
We also recognize there will be those who wish to celebrate or distance themselves from this development.
Printing T.J.’s wedding announcement is not about endorsing it, and it certainly is not about distancing ourselves from it.
Publishing it is, however, a matter of employing our policy of fairness to all citizens of the Valley — current or former — who wish to be part of our newspaper.
The Vindicator’s long-time policy in regard to marriage announcements is that we will publish any legally recognized marriage, regardless of where it occurs.
We’ve published marriage vows that have taken place throughout the world. That world includes New York, which includes same-sex marriages as part of their legal landscape.
And we are eager to apply our wedding policy to T.J. and Brad.
As humankind, we develop and evolve. Some of that is celebrated and some of it is divisive. And often as a society, we are at our most fractious the closer we get to defining love and living.
As our society changes, those changes are reflected in the pages of all newspapers.
Tick off the decades, and you tick off a list of social changes that reached the pages of newspapers, from reporting on various races, to interracial couples, to single mothers, and more.
Tuesday’s marriage announcement for T.J. and Brad is a continuation of that societal change, and we’re hopeful that due respect is shown to the couple, as well as to our policy of fairness to all who choose to be part of The Vindicator.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs, too, on Vindy.com.