In October 2014, after a series of legal ups and downs, same-sex marriage was legalized by a judicial court action in Nevada. It was one part in a series of wins for LGBT advocates in the country over the past few years.
Currently, 35 states allow same-sex marriages, and another 10 are in court proceedings. There are some in the LGBT community, however, who are old enough to remember how different things were not very long ago.
These people grew up in an era of non-acceptance, where being gay could cost someone his job, or in some cases even his life. The LGBT senior citizens don’t fit into the category of the vibrant, young gay community, yet they aren’t comfortable in many of the social circles of their peers.
Art Deerheim, 71, is the outgoing president of the Las Vegas Primetimers, a social group for gay senior citizens. He remembers what it was like to be with his late partner for almost 34 years, having to hide that relationship from friends, family and co-workers throughout most of that time.
Gary Payne, 64, is the 2015 president of the Primetimers, who was finally able to marry his partner of 37 years in March.
The two remember the social stigmas and the risks associated with going to gay bars when they were younger, and the struggles of having to live their lives as quietly as possible.
Now, even with the wave of support for the LGBT community, many senior citizens are still a group who harbors homophobia from times of their youth – because back then, it was the norm.
Art Deerheim, outgoing president, Primetimers Las Vegas chapter
Gary Payne, current president, Primetimers Las Vegas chapter