If you had asked him a few years ago, Mark Taylor would have told you same-sex marriage was a political issue, not an emotional one.

“I tended to be a little more conservative about the whole idea of marriage,”  Taylor said.

Back then, he thought stacks of notarized legal documents were a sufficient way for gay couples to protect themselves and their assets. But, when he fell in love with Steve Hyman, he began to think about same-sex marriage with his heart. 

“At first, I thought a contractual agreement would be suitable," Taylor said. "But after 5 years, the emotional debt to one another had me wondering, 'Why can’t we be married?' We wanted the affirmation to the outer world that we are a couple."

Taylor and Hyman got that affirmation in September when they wed in the vineyard country of Guerneville, Cali. The sun was settling over Sonoma Valley as the men exchanged vows before Reverend Kevin Tripp on the rooftop deck of the posh Applewood Inn.

Hyman's best friend Ginny Brown had flown in from Ann Arbor, Mich., to be a part of their big day. She and the officiant's husband, Dominic Maccario, watched as the couple put politics aside as made statement of legal commitment to one another.

"It is a political issue and will be many years before its an accepted thing," Hyman said. "But we haven’t done it as a political statement as much as a statement to each other."

Both men moved to Nashville in 1978. Hyman, who is associate professor of clinical anesthesia at Vanderbilt University and and a medical director at Vanderbilt Medical Center, came from Converse, Ind., and Taylor, who serves as manager of consumer marketing communications for Nashville-based HCA, from Cleveland, Tenn.

But their synchronized settlement in Nashville was a coincidence. The men didn't meet until about 25 years later at a business mixer for the Nashville Association of Professional Persons, now known as the GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

Two months later, the men had an awkward, chance reconnection at Tribe, a Nashville gay bar. Taylor, remembering a dapper Hyman from their introduction, didn't recognize him in his casual attire.

"He came up and reintroduced himself and I said, 'I don't think we've met,'" Taylor said. "He says I was snotty."

They hit it off on their first date in June of 2003, moved in together two months later and haven't separated since.

Hyman shared Taylor's conservative views on marriage early in the relationship and said he still believes there'd be less negative outcry about same-sex weddings sans the term 'marriage.' But regardless of what they're calling it, Hyman said from California to Tennessee, the couple's union has been well received.

"We've gotten so much positive feedback, even from people we don't even know," Hyman said.

In California, they were treated with complimentary cake, champagne and a personal greeting from the restaurant's chef.

"No one even flinched," Taylor said. "There was no negativity when we told them we were in town to get married. It was what I would have expected for a heterosexual couple. It seems to me that any adult who’s ever been in love would realize the positive value in finding someone who you want to be with."

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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