There was a small, touching moment while covering President Obama’s address to the White House LGBT Pride Month reception that caught our eye: this gay couple holding each other, silently and wordlessly.
After the president had finished speaking, we chatted with them. They were Mark Segal, the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, and his boyfriend of eight years, Jason Villmez of the PBS Newshour.
Segal had a fascinating story. In 1970, he’d been a part of the Gay Liberation Front, which planned to pull off something called Christopher Street Liberation Day.
“We met right in front of the Village Voice office!” he told us with glee, recalling that, “We just hoped a few people would come out to join us. About 5,000 people came out!”
It was shortly after the Stonewall riots, and long before rainbow flags were ubiquitous in the Village (let alone being made into cookies in the White House).
It was “amazing,” Segal said of the event that which would evolve into “gay pride — we didn’t even have that term for the event back then.” Of course, now the city hosts a pride parade with hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators. So do cities around the world, although a handful of places in Europe still call it the Christopher Street Day Parade out of homage.
“And now, you could probably get 5,000 people to come out and stand with gay rights in cities almost anywhere,” he said with wonder.
Also, over 40 years later, he got to witness the President of the United States stand with gay rights, as Segal and Villemez got to hold each other.
We put Segal and Villemez on the spot and asked them how they met and what it meant to hear President Obama say that he considered their relationship as worthy as any straight couple’s. This is what they shared: