Interview with Michael J. DeLeon, December 11, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

 

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00:00:00 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Um, so painting with broad strokes, uh, tell us about yourself and your early memories.

Segment Synopsis: Michael DeLeon talks about how his family came to settle in Hardin County, Kentucky and his childhood in a rural community. He talks about attending Elizabethtown Community College and connecting with a group of friends there.

Keywords: Elizabethtown Community College; Fathers; Fort Campbell (Ky.); Fort Knox (Ky.); Friends; Hispanic; Kentucky; Military service; Rural areas; Secrets; University of Kentucky; University of Louisville

Subjects: Childhood; Closeted gays.; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Elizabethtown Community & Technical College; Family farms; Gay men--Identity.; Gay youth; Hardin County (Ky.); Rural children

00:02:46 - Experiences at the University of Kentucky and coming out

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Partial Transcript: So, um, that friend group here at UK and, and your, your move from, uh, from the community college to UK here in Lexington...

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about transferring, along with his Elizabethtown Community College friends, to the University of Kentucky. He talks about his 'dual lifestyle' as a member of a fraternity who went to gay bars at night.

Keywords: "Beards"; College of Agriculture; Dual lifestyles; Family farms; Family friends; Farm House (Fraternity); Fraternities; Friends; Jobs; Money; Secrets; The Bar (Bar)

Subjects: Closeted gays.; College environment; College students--Social conditions; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay bars; Gay community; Gay men--Identity.; Greek letter societies.; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minority college students; University of Kentucky

00:08:59 - Meeting his husband, Greg Bourke

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so at, at what stage in, um, in your life here in Lexington as a, as a student did you encounter--uh, meet your husband for the first time?

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon tells the story of how he met his now-husband, Greg Bourke, at The Bar in Lexington and how their relationship began. He talks about the culture surrounding dating in the gay community during the 1970s and 1980s.

Keywords: 1970s; 1980s; Changes; Dating; First dates; Greg Bourke; Husband; One night stands; Relationships; The Bar (Bar)

Subjects: Gay bars; Gay community; Gay couples.; Gay culture.; Gay men--Sexual behavior.

00:12:26 - Involvement in the Kentucky same-sex marriage case Bourke v. Beshear

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Partial Transcript: So, um, in thinking about, you know, uh, certainly a moment that, that, um, I knew you and Greg from initially, a, a, a big PR moment, right? Um, around marriage equality.

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about marrying Greg in Canada and later adopting two children. Their marriage was not legally recognized in the U.S. and they could not both be on the papers to adopt their children. This led to their decision to file a lawsuit to have their marriage legally recognized in the U.S., Bourke v. Beshear. He talks about being inundated by the media, and how their case veered from the marriage equality plan envisioned by groups like the ACLU.

Keywords: Adopting; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Attorneys; Bourke v. Beshear; Canada; Careers; Children; Connecticut; Dawn Elliott; Freedom to Marry (Nonprofit organization); Greg Bourke; Human Rights Campaign (HRC); Impact; Interviews; Kentucky Marriage Recognition Case; Lawsuits; Louisville (Ky.); Marriage equality; Media; Moving; Plaintiffs; Plans; Road map; Same-sex marriages; Shannon Fauver

Subjects: Gay adoption.; Gay couples.; Gay men--Family relationships--United States.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men--United States--Social conditions.; Gay parents.; Gay rights movement; Gay rights--United States.; Gay rights.; Gays--Family relationships.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation--United States.; Sexual minority parents.

00:18:33 - Taking the case to the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges

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Partial Transcript: So do--um, can you tell us about, um, I guess, the first of two days: the, the day you realized that, uh, you know, that this was going--that your case, as part of several, are going to the Supreme Court.

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about Judge Heyburn's decision on their case and the appeal filed by Governor Steve Beshear. He talks about how their case became a part of the larger Obergefell v. Hodges case which went to the Supreme Court.

Keywords: 6th Circuit; Appeals; Attorney General Jack Conway; Circuit courts; Court system; Federal District Court; Governor Steve Beshear; Greg Bourke; Judge John G. Heyburn II; Marriage equality; Networks; Obergefell v. Hodges; Plaintiffs; Recognition; Same-sex marriages; States; Supreme Court

Subjects: Gay couples.; Gay men--Family relationships--United States.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men--United States--Social conditions.; Gay rights movement; Gay rights--United States.; Gay rights.; Gays--Family relationships.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation--United States.; Sexual minority parents.

00:21:30 - Day of the Supreme Court's decision on Obergefell v. Hodges

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Partial Transcript: So the, the day that you, um, you realized it finally worked out, right?

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon recounts the proceedings on the day the decision on Obergefell v. Hodges was announced. He and his family were in the courtroom.

Keywords: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Celebrations; Children; Courtrooms; Decisions; Judge Anthony Kennedy; Marriage equality; Media; Obergefell v. Hodges; Reactions; Rulings; Same-sex marriages; Supreme Court

Subjects: Gay couples.; Gay men--Family relationships--United States.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men--United States--Social conditions.; Gay rights movement; Gay rights--United States.; Gay rights.; Gays--Family relationships.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation--United States.; Sexual minority parents.

00:23:48 - Role of religion in his life

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Partial Transcript: So throughout, um, your life and, and especially throughout, uh, your contributions to, to LGBTQ community and activism, uh, what role has religion played in, in that for you?

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about being Roman Catholic and the role his faith has played in his relationship and family life. He talks about their acceptance by their church parish, but mentions that the church hierarchy can be problematic.

Keywords: Arch bishops; Beliefs; Blessings; Church hierarchy; Congregations; Encouragement; Faith; Fathers; Harm; Parents; Parishes; Progress; Relationships; Religious communities; Roman Catholic; Support

Subjects: Churches; Gay couples.; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Religion

00:27:34 - Experience living as an out gay man in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, um, y, y--both specifically in Lexington and maybe in your broader life in the state, um, what kinds of spaces have you found to be the most supportive...

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about being out in his workplace and other spaces and the kinds of reactions he has received. He talks about how social media has changed the minds of many people who once had negative feelings about the LGBTQ community.

Keywords: Careers; Connecticut; Discrimination; Diversity; GE Appliances; Hardin County (Ky.); Jobs; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); Out; Plaintiffs; Relationships; Rural areas; Social media; Supportive; Uncomfortable; Welcoming; Workplace

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Gay couples.; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Occupations

00:30:39 - Involvement in activism

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Partial Transcript: Um, so outside of, uh, marriage equality where a lot of our, our, our activist conversation has, has, uh, centered with you, um, tell us about other activism or advocacy that you're involved in.

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about his activism outside of the marriage equality case, including his work with a University of Kentucky LGBTQ alumni group, attending rural pride fairs, and spreading awareness of the opportunities for LGBTQ people in terms of careers.

Keywords: Activism; Advocacy; Awareness; Careers; Employers; GE Appliances; Jobs; Out; Pride fairs; PrideCats; UK LGBTQ* Alumni Group

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Occupations

00:32:21 - Current life

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Partial Transcript: Um, so tell us a bit about, uh, Michael in 2017 and, um, you know, what excites you, what are you working on or involved in?

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about his interest in pottery and gardening. He talks about his sons and tells a story about parenting.

Keywords: Childrearing; Children; Creativity; Dishes; Family; Gardening; Greg Bourke; Hobbies; Husband; Interests; Obergefell v. Hodges; Parenting; Pottery; Sons; Supreme Court decision; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Gay adoption.; Gay couples.; Gay men--Family relationships--United States.; Gay parents.; Gays--Family relationships.; Sexual minorities' families.; Sexual minority parents.

00:36:00 - Hopes for the future

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Partial Transcript: So a, as we wrap up our conversation, um, what do you want to share that we haven't asked?

Segment Synopsis: DeLeon talks about his feelings on the current political climate as a gay Hispanic man. He talks about his hopes for changing the situation. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Caring; Changes; Different; Help; Hispanic; Political environment

Subjects: Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Hispanic Americans--Kentucky.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Politics and government