India’s recent Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ rights meant so much to Laurie and me, we are tremendously happy for this great step forward for the people of India. It made us reflect upon the importance of sowing the seed of love, not just for us but for people around the world and India holds a very special place in our hearts.
After the great tsunami of 2004 and seeing all the terrible images and news of the devastation, it hit me hard, I knew people who lost family in that disaster and I was driven to help. I knew I didn’t just want to drop money in a box and not know where it was going, I wanted to do more than that, I wanted to see my money make a difference. I came up with the idea of making a fundraising CD, I reached out to my old school friend, British singer/songwriter Julia Fordham and immediately she was in. Together with a group of friends, my sons local school and some incredibly talented producers, we made a new version of Julia’s song “Happy Ever After – Tsunami Remix.” Then, with the help of Sir Richard Branson, who gave permission to sell the CD in his Virgin stores, we raised $40,000.
Jump forward to 2007, we had cut through bureaucracy, miles of red tape and connected directly with the Round Table of India, through them we were able to rebuild a school in the tiny village of Sothikuppam, Tamil Nadu, which had been devastated by the tsunami.
Laurie and I were excited to be invited to the school’s official inauguration along with my two sons, Andrew (9), Leo (6) and Julia Fordham. Before we could travel, we had to obtain visitors VISA’s and during that process Laurie and I were told to be careful not to show any signs of affection publicly because of India’s anti-gay stance. Although Laurie and I were aware of this, it didn’t stop us from wanting to help the people of India and it never should. We are all human and when people are in need nothing should stand in the way of that.
Our journey to India was incredible, traveling through the country from Chennai to Sothikuppam, we were able to see the spirit of the people in non-tourist areas. It was such a privilege to attend the school’s inauguration, we were touched by their warm welcome, the entire village turned out to celebrate our arrival and grand opening. The children put on the most beautiful show for us, then Julia sang “Happy Ever After” and Andrew and Leo made sweet speeches on behalf of their school.
We felt a deep connection to India and we knew there must be so many LGBTQ people who were yearning for acceptance, but at that time we had our battle to face, we had to fight for our marriage to be recognized by the US federal government. Through the help of GLAD Law, our bi-national story made it all the way to the judiciary committee in DC and India was a part of our story, Hart-Break Or Happy Ever After For Bi-National Couple.
Laurie and I have always had a fervent desire to advocate, whether it be for ourselves and the LGBTQ community, the health of a family member, or for people on another continent, giving something of yourself to help another is what makes the world a better place. As part of our continued LGBTQ activism we started theLexperience, a social media site to empower women, particularly lesbians and have had an overwhelming response from women in India. We couldn’t be happier to be providing positive support for these women taking it full circle, from education to acceptance. Our personal journey is filled with wonderful connections to India, which we love and then, when we heard the breaking news of India’s supreme court ruling we were ecstatic.
India’s Supreme Court ruled ‘Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform.’
We know that there is much work to be continued for LGBTQ here in the US and our mission is to do just that. But also, we want to travel back to India, as well as visiting other countries, like Australia, who are still fighting for their human rights and marriage equality and tell our story. Individuals can make an impact, you start out as one person then gather people along the way and eventually you can change hearts and minds. Let’s remember Obama had a change of heart and became a marriage equality ally, change happens and it happens because of people and their stories.
Everyone has the right to love and deserves their happy ever after.