Poignant video goes viral, underscores reasons for equality
More than two million viewers have seen Shane Bitney Crone's video to mark the year anniversary of his partner Tom Bridegroom's death since it was posted earlier this month. The 10-minute video is a touching account of their life together, Tom's difficult coming out to his parents, his untimely death and its wrenching aftermath.
It is also a cautionary tale of how legally fragile LGBT relationships remain in this country, despite the enormous attention given same sex rights in the media.
Shane and Tom were together for six years, that is until Tom fell off a roof in a freak accident and died in May 2011. Neither had wills, so despite having a mortgage and bank accounts together, Shane had no legal relationship with Tom. Tom's mother came in from Indiana, took the body and some of his belongings back to Tom's childhood home for burial. Shane was promised that he'd be told about further arrangements, but they were not forthcoming. Upon hearing of a funeral service, Shane, his mother and best friend traveled to Indiana, but he was told if he came to the funeral, he'd be harmed by Tom's father and uncle.
To mark the anniversary of Tom’s death, Shane prepared the ten-minute video, which contains footage of the couple in happier days with a voice-over by Shane that chronicles the turn of events. Called "It Could Happen to You," the video is meant to inform other couples of how important equal protection is for gay men and women, and to protect your relationship through any legal means necessary.
The video was released the day before North Carolina voters strengthened the ban on gay marriage in the States. It came two days before President Obama’s historic support of same sex marriage.
At the end of video, there’s a slide telling viewers that if they care about the issue, to visit the Equal Rights Equal Love Facebook page.
On May 15, 2011 Crone appeared on CNN in an interview by Suzanne Malveaux. CNN had also contacted Bridegroom’s family to offer their side of the story, but they didn’t return the call.
Crowe told Malveaux that after Tom’s accidental death (he fell off a roof), his mother flew in from Indiana. "She came to California to take him back home, even though he no longer considered Indiana to be his home. Tom and I - we didn’t have wills. I wasn’t a power of attorney, so there was nothing I could say or do to stop her from taking him back to Indiana."
Crowe was assured that he would be informed of further arrangements, but never heard back from the Bridegroom family. "So what happened then," he told Malveaux, "was my mother, and my best friend and I we flew to Indiana assuming that we could attend the funeral, but then I received a phone call from one of his relatives letting me know that I wasn’t welcome, and that if I did show up, then I would be harmed. So I was scared."
Crowe found closure in Los Angeles. "Fortunately I was able to have my own memorial service for him here in Los Angeles where all of his friends and family here could celebrate his life."
Asked why he made the video, Crone said: "Originally putting the video together was therapeutic for me. And I was dreading the anniversary of his passing. And I really had to ask myself, ’Shane. you can dwell on this, you feel sorry for yourself, or maybe you can make the most of this tragic situation and you can do your part to maybe inspire people to protect themselves, so this won’t happen again.’ Or maybe inspire people to view gay people differently, to view gay marriage differently. Almost like humanize the issue. That was my goal."
Would things have been different if he had been able to marry Tom?
"If we had been able to marry, I would have been able to plan his funeral, I would be able to go to the hospital and get the medical records to find out what happened exactly. There are so many things I could have done and would have been able to do had we been able to marry."
He also said that the response has been overwhelmingly supportive. "I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails and tweets from people thanking me for sharing the story. And its actually shocking how many people out there have gone through very similar experiences. It is still shocking to read some of these emails. And it also comforting at the same time that I have the support and love from people all over. And not just important enough for me, but important enough for Tom because this is our story. Tom is touching lives even though he’s no longer here and that’s a pretty incredible thing."
He will not, though, seek any further contact with the Bridegrooms. "I’ve forgiven them for every thing that has happened and I had to really just tell myself I need to move on with my life, so there’s really at this point no need to talk to his parents."
Watch the "It Could Happen To You" Video: