Equal, at last

By PHILIP EIL  |  May 14, 2013

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WHO Raymond Beausejour, 65 and Bill Eyman, 72

WHERE North Providence

TOGETHER SINCE 1981. "January the 9th at 4:30 pm," Ray says.

WHEN THE LAW PASSED "I cried a lot," Bill says. "My life passed in front of me. It never occurred to me that anything like this could possibly happen. And then to have it happen with such beautiful words being spoken by primarily straight legislators, including Catholics, who were saying, 'I'm a civil servant. That's my job.' And especially in the context of other stuff that's going on in the United States, I thought, 'Damn, Rhode Island. I love you.' "

An avid photographer, Ray has shot hundreds of weddings, he says. But he always did so with the sorrow of knowing he could never marry the man he loves. "It was a great sadness, now eclipsed by wonderful, unbelievable joy," he says.

WEDDING PLANS August 1, at North Providence Town Hall, with Mayor Charles Lombardi (they hope) officiating.

"I don't want it to be a gay thing," Bill says. "I want it to be a North Providence thing."

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WHO Donna Nesselbush, 50 and Kelly Carse, 53

WHERE Pawtucket

THE STORY Kelly — a CrossFit trainer in Providence — says she was a bit intimidated by Donna's resume: state senator, Pawtucket municipal judge, attorney with her own firm. But if she was, she didn't show it on their first date at the Avery in Providence. Donna remembers Kelly cracking jokes, showing off weightlifting maneuvers, and correcting Donna's African geography.

"I was like, 'This girl's got game!'" she says.

THE VIEW FROM THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE The famous marathon judiciary committee hearing was a tough one, Donna says.

"As the only openly gay person there," she explains, "my instinct is I want to engage with every person who says something that I find offensive and say, 'Really? You think I'm an abomination?' I come up here every day, I've volunteered for a million different causes, I do my best with my nieces and nephews, and try to live the Christianity that I was taught as a child every day."

But if she had debated with everyone who testified in opposition to the law, she says, the hearing would have stretched for days. "We were there until 5 am as it was!"

THE NEXT CHALLENGE? Planning the wedding. Donna wants to invite as many people as possible; Kelly prefers something small and intimate.

"I keep making the joke that it is going to be easier to have passed marriage equality than it will be to plan our wedding," Donna says.

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