painting by Carol Levasseur
Coming Out Of the Shadows on Marriage Equality
In Memory of My Partner Carol . . . 


By Sharleen Leahey

As many of us recall a Marriage Equality bill was actually PASSED by both houses of the New Jersey Legislature in February 2012 but was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. Thousands of citizens wrote letters, telephoned their representatives and rallied in Trenton ... but the bill went down to defeat. My state senator in Somerset County refused to override that veto. In an interview on NJ Public Television after the defeat of the bill he stated that he felt compelled to help defeat the bill out of respect for his religion and the Catholic Church. I was dismayed that New Jersey would defeat marriage equality just a few months after New York State legislators, many conservatives among them, passed it.

Less than two months later, after a year-long struggle with cancer, my partner Carol passed into eternity. We were together for 10 years. We raised children, volunteered in the community and we voted. As homeowners and workers we paid thousands of dollars in state and federal taxes. The public servants who were duly elected to represent ALL the people of New Jersey failed us. Our choice to legally marry as a couple living here in our home state was denied to us . . . forever. The denial of what millions of couples now take for granted added to my sense of loss in a profound way.

Over the last year I have become acquainted with several bereaved gay men and women who have recently lost a partner due to illness, in many cases (as in mine), in the prime of life. When speaking about the urgent need for justice during the civil rights struggle Martin Luther King once said: "there is such a thing as being too late." 

Eleven months after my loss I am uplifted to see that the marriage equality debate has reached the US Supreme Court. I want to send my blessings to the activists whose courage and dedication have brought us closer to equality and to fairness under the laws of our land.

In honor of my partner's memory I declare what I know to be true: the love we share is sacred. As I join with others to bear witness and tell our truth, in my heart I feel certain that Carol would be proud.

Sharleen Leahey
Somerville, NJ

In honor of Dr. King's Birthday Celebration at a church on Jerusalem Road . . . Sharleen Leahey sings "The Ballad of Martin Luther King" for a Baptist church congregation in Scotch Plains, New Jersey on January 27, 2011. The audience enthusiastically sings the chorus:



"I've been to the mountaintop . . .

Today I have a dream . . .

Let us never forget the words . . . 

Let us never forget the deeds . . . 

Let us never forget the dream of Martin Luther King"