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BRIDEGROOM, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, will tell the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship – a relationship that was cut tragically short by a misstep off the side of a roof. The story of what happened after this accidental death– of how people without the legal protections of marriage can find themselves completely shut out and ostracized– is poignant, enraging and opens a window onto the issue of marriage equality like no speech or lecture ever will.
On May 7, 2012, the anniversary of Tom’s death, Shane made a video tribute to his greatest love entitled “It Could Happen To You.” This film, posted on YouTube, has gotten over 2.6 million hits and inspired over 40 thousand e-mails and comments on YouTube and Facebook. The impact of Shane’s original film and the raw nerve it touched for so many, tells us this is an important story that needs to be told… and told now.
A message from Director/ Producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. In March of 1986, my mother was diagnosed with AIDS, after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion. This occurred just as the pilot for “Designing Women” was getting underway. As I wrote much of the first season, sitting beside my mom, I was witness to the incredible prejudice and prevailing ignorance inflicted not just on her, but all the homosexual men who shared her hospital floor. Because of this, I was honored to write the Emmy nominated DW episode, “Killing all the Right People,” which was television’s first scripted show to tackle the hateful prejudice surrounding gays and AIDS.
Little did I know that I would someday be provided with another opportunity to address this same kind of bigotry. It all began when I attended a gay wedding ceremony in Palm Springs, California. That night, a couple of unforgettable, young men named Shane and Tom joined my table. I learned they were “Designing Women” fans, madly in love and literally brimming with all their big plans for an exciting life together. Sadly, that possibility ended when Tom was killed in an accident last year. When I heard the news, I was haunted by the sheer weight of Shane’s loss. Even though I barely knew them, their good-hearted demeanors and earnest love had made an indelible impression on me.
Then, a few weeks ago, I saw Shane’s YouTube posting, along with his bone crushing grief and the story of what happened to him after Tom’s death—and all because they were never allowed to marry. Like so many others who saw this video, I was deeply touched. And angered. I called Shane and invited him to my office. I told him I wanted to make a documentary that would tell his and Tom’s love story from beginning to end. I have now seen all of Shane and Tom’s videos and home movies. Like a lot of young people, they routinely documented their lives—but this recorded history is so prolific, it almost seems as though they had a premonition or unconscious fear of not getting to live out something important.
Tom and Shane were each other’s first and only loves. They are devoted, hardworking, unassuming and funny. Each is from a small town and each, in his own way, is imbued with the best kind of small town values. They are, in fact, the sort of young people who hold within themselves the promise of America. And that is why I want to bring to life, on film, this real life Romeo and Romeo—so that all who condemn them, might come face to face with exactly what it is they are opposing.
Certainly the fact that Tom’s last name is Bridegroom is a lucky and serendipitous gift to a filmmaker. But it is so unusual, even a skeptic would find it hard not to also feel that Tom, in his own way, is now standing in for something larger than himself. I can think of no more powerful opportunity to change hearts and minds on this very important issue of human rights, than to tell the story of Shane and Tom, which at its core, is the struggle of all people who yearn to be who they are and love who they love.