Shane Bitney Crone is the subject of "Bridegroom," the most crowd-funded documentary to-date, which centers on the tragic love story between Crone and his deceased boyfriend, Tom Bridegroom. Crone's painful story went viral after the then 26-year-old posted a YouTube video called "It Could Happen to You," detailing his plight in the aftermath of the sudden death of his beloved.
Crone was prohibited access to Bridegroom's body and belongings, and threatened with physical harm if he tried to attend the funeral of his partner of nearly six years. "I was the most important person in Tom's life," Shane details in the video. "And [his family was] trying to erase me from existence."
Having agreed with Tom early on not to settle for a domestic partnership, and dreaming of the day they would marry, Crone -- who has become a champion of the "marriage equality" cause -- had a reason to stand on the steps outside the Supreme Court Wednesday (June 26) to await the ruling on DOMA and Prop 8.
"It was a very powerful moment," Crone tells Zap2it of the SCOTUS ruling. "To be surrounded there by so many supportive people, everybody spreading love. It was just incredible."
Still, Crone says the fight is far from over. "This isn't necessarily the ruling we all hoped for, but this is a huge step," he says. "The fact that gay marriage will now be recognized in at least 12 states is incredible. But there are still a lot of states in which LGBT couples don't have access to marriage. I want to celebrate, but at the same time acknowledge that this is not the end of the road."
As for the 38 states that do not yet recognize same-sex marriage, Crone believes the tide is turning. "I think now that on the federal level, the government is no longer treating gay citizens as second class, I think it's just a matter of time," says Crone. But has the gay marriage fight lessened, or will it simply intensify? "I don't think the groups that oppose marriage equality will give up," Crone admits. "I think some of them will try even harder. But I think now that the majority of Americans support marriage equality, it's going to be a harder battle for these groups to fight."
Crone points to recent studies that he says show 55 percent of Americans support legalization of same-sex marriage, while up to 80 percent of youth in the U.S. share the same view. "It goes to show there's going to be a bright future ahead," Crone says. "And the younger generations aren't going to have to go through a lot of the struggles that older LGBT people have."
Shane realizes that had he been allowed to marry Tom, he never would have made the YouTube video that has garnered nearly 4 million views. And the "Bridegroom" documentary, produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason would not be making the rounds on the film festival circuit.
"All my life I was ashamed of being gay," Crone says. "And Tom was always encouraging me to stand up for myself. I don't know if I would have ever taken a stand like I have since he passed away. Obivously I would do anything to bring him back, and I would much rather that he were here with me, and we were fighting for this together. But I can't help but think maybe this is part of some bigger plan."
Crone says he regularly hears from suicidal teenagers who ask him to stand up for them and give them a voice. But he also hears from people telling him to kill himself, or wishing he would be murdered. "I feel like I have a responsibility, although I never expected this," Crone says. "I feel like I need to make the most of it, and do what I can to make a difference. ... The days that I feel really sad or weak, I think of Tom. And the good feeling that comes from the positive responses our story has received is enough to keep me going."
As for Tom's family, Shane says they were asked to participate in the documentary, but did not respond. "I just hope they can focus on loving their son for who he was," Crone says. "I think that they could turn the situation around, and they could be very influential in this fight. They could show people that you can change. It's OK to be against something, then have your mind and your heart opened." In a remarkable display of grace, Crone says of Bridegroom's family, "This is a story that has spread around the globe now. I hope that people aren't directing hate toward them."
"Bridegroom" is expected to see a limited theatrical release in the fall, followed by availability on VOD services. Watch the video that started it all below:
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images, YouTube