Shane Bitney Crone, the subject and producer of the documentary "Bridegroom" premiering Sunday night on OWN, became an accidental activist for LGBT when the unthinkable happened: He lost the love of his life, Tom Bridegroom, in a tragic accident.
The couple had been together for 6 years and shared a mortgage, a business and a pet -- but without the legal protection of marriage, Crone could not stop what happened next. "I received a phone call from one of Tom's relatives and she wanted to let me know that I was not welcome to attend his funeral -- because if I do show up, his uncle and his father had planned an attack," Crone says in the film.
In the above video, Crone talks about the documentary and the broader message it sends in the battle for equality. "Growing up, even at my church they were teaching us in youth group that being gay is a sin and that I am going to spend eternity in hell just for being who I am," he says. "People don't see the negative effects that this has on youth -- even people in their 60s and 70s that still have not come out because there's just so much shame."
For anyone struggling to come out, Crone encourages you to take the time you need, but to know there are people who will support you. "I think that if you are struggling, you would be surprised that for the most part, people will accept you -- and you will feel so much better when you have that weight lifted off your shoulders and you can just be who you are," he says.
Though he was ostracized by his partner's family, Crone doesn't want people to come away from his story feeling angry. "I hope that they walk away feeling inspired and wanting to change things," he says.
Marriage equality is one of those changes. "Bridegroom" shows what can happen when two people are legally barred from having equal rights and equal protections under marriage laws, and Crone no longer feels domestic partnership is the answer. "Until we are able to get married like everyone else, people will just continue to look at these alternatives as a second-class version of marriage," Crone says.
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