On June 27, 2013, a day after the Supreme Court ruled DOMA and Prop 8 unconstitutional, Claude Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth got married in front of forty friends and family members in the garden of the Red Inn in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
After fifty years together, when most such long-term committed couples spend their golden anniversary recommitting their love for each other in front of loved ones, Summers and Pebworth are doing it for the first time.
“Our decision to marry on our golden anniversary was deeply personal and highly political,” they both said.
The couple met decades ago, in the summer of 1963, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in a gay bar called Boulevard Lounge.
Summers was just 18, home for the summer after finishing his first year of college at UCLA. He said he wasn’t sure at the time whether or not he was going to study English or pre-law. Pebworth was a 27-year-old Ph.D. candidate at Louisiana State University.
They both said it was love at first sight, despite the fact that they met in an unromantic way.
Throughout the years, decades, Summers and Pebworth remained by each others’ sides, despite the hurdles the two had to overcome.
In the beginning of their relationship, the two of them had to be cautious: they never showed any affection in public, and passed themselves off as “cousins” or “roommates.”
But with the gay revolution starting to become stronger, so did their courage to be more open with their loved ones, and their decision to help fight for equality began together (the two marched at New York and San Francisco’s Pride Parades many times). Their friends and family became very accepting of their sexual orientations and their relationship. Pedworth’s father was particularly supportive, even insisting that his son and Summers share a room the first time Pedworth brought him home for the weekend.
Unfortunately, they could not avoid homophobia entirely; Summers was even fired once after his sexuality became known, forcing the couple to spend a year apart in the 1970s.
Nonetheless, Summers and Pebworth both found jobs working as professors at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The two were highly respected, and received distinguished professorship as a couple after both Summers and Pebworth were nominated for the honor.
The happy now-married couple is currently retired, living in New Orleans.
On GLBTQ.com, a website dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender content, Summers and Pebworth published an essay about their life together.
The final paragraphs read, “Our decision was at once personal and political.
“One of the readings at our wedding was given by a dear friend who has doubts about the institution of marriage but not about us.
“At the wedding, he read Tina Modotti’s toast ‘To Diego and Frida’ from Julie Taymor’s film Frida (2002), which begins, ‘I don’t believe in marriage. No, I really don’t. Let me be clear about that. I think at worst it’s a hostile political act, a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it’s a happy delusion—these two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they’re about to make each other.
“‘But, but, when two people know that, and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway,’ the toast continued, ‘then I don’t think it’s conservative or delusional. I think it’s radical and courageous and very romantic.’
“We happily drank to that.”