By Patrick Duvall
Today, Armando and Scott are firmly, unquestionably in love. They share a house they own together, last summer they got civilly united, and they spend their days wrestling with nieces and nephews and generally providing a home for those that don’t have one. But it wasn’t always this way. This is their story.
While Scott’s experience with his parents was quite rocky at times, Armando’s experience was less so. Growing up gay in Pilsen in the 80s and 90s was no easy feat, but when he finally came out to his mother at 18, after much hemming and hawing, she accepted him with open arms. They remained as close as ever, and for that he has always felt extraordinarily lucky. For all Scott’s troubles with his family, they did their best to love him, so both Scott and Armando wanted to do their best to pay that forward to a new generation. Between them, they had many nieces and nephews that were over at their condo constantly, but even that wasn’t enough.
The couple started classes at DCFS to become a foster family that same Spring, and were soon filling out their application to become parents. Being approved as a gay male couple was a challenge even before the civil union law came to pass, but, as it turned out, an un-civilly united gay couple had no chance at all. Their application was denied, and, after some tactful inquiries by Armando, they learned if they got a civil union, their chances of being approved would increase dramatically.
They loved each other, there was no question about that, but seeking out a secondary recognition from the state of Illinois did not appeal to them at all. Their dream was to have a wedding in a Catholic church, officiated by a priest, with all their families and friends in attendance. Having a wedding without a church and without even being able to officially use the word marriage to describe their union would disrespect, in their eyes, the love they shared. Accepting the current legal and religious affairs would be like admitting that their relationship was, in fact, somehow secondary to their heterosexual peers. Many LGBT couples across the country, and, indeed, the world had achieved their marital dreams, and Armando and Scott wanted to wait for any kind of official recognition of their relationship until they could realize their own. Were it not for the need the felt to help kids languishing in the foster system, they might have.
On May 1st, 2012, Armando and Scott met at the Cook County courthouse on their lunch break for a quick civil union ceremony. They looked on the event, not as a wedding, but as an engagement. They were future husbands, saving the real ceremony for the day they could have the wedding they’d always imagined with all the legal and religious benefits marriage implies.
As they had left work for the ceremony, neither chose to dress up for the occasion, but the judge was quite friendly and joyful on what she thought would be their big day. She asked if they had any witnesses. “No,” they replied. She asked if they had any rings. “No,” Scott said, but Armando chimed in that they did, indeed. The judge smiled magnanimously and said these little surprises was what love was all about. Sheepishly, Armando withdrew a pair of ring pops and told Scott to pick a color.
Afterward they shared champagne and chocolate at a restaurant across the street, still wearing their brightly colored candy rings. When Armando’s sisters found out they had gotten a civil union without inviting them, the word livid would be a marked understatement of their reaction. Once the couple explained that their civil union was a promise of a greater ceremony to come, it quelled the familial outrage to a degree, but it was a few more days
before it really blew over. Scott’s family had a similar, but less volatile reaction.
In the end their civil union had the desired result, and their application to become a foster family was approved. They are still looking for the right child to adopt, but, in June, they took
in a 19 year old young man through the program who was looking to set his life on the right direction.
Just before Gay Pride weekend in Chicago, Chris moved in, and adjusted quickly to living with a couple of gay men. Armando and Scott slipped into the parental role just as easily, and soon started referring to him as their godson.
Though it took years of struggling, both Armando and Scott feel they have found their place in the world. Their relationship has never been stronger, and as they move forward they hope to share the benefits of the love and joy they were fortunate enough to find with one another. They want to pass on to the next generation of their family the integrity and faith with which they live their lives, and serve as beacons of light for all who cross their path. With a bit of faith and some providence, they will continue to inspire for many decades to come.