As thousands proudly wave rainbow colored flags across America, one gay couple in Sulphur Springs has received their marriage license. After being a couple for 28 years and adopting 2 children, one Sulphur Springs family is happy they are finally going to tie the knot.
“We are just a normal everyday family,” said husband Donny Foster. “I was born and raised in Hopkins County. It has always been our home.”
Their story began decades ago in Hopkins County when Foster and Joe Autrey were in their 20s.
“We met 28 years ago at a party on July 4. Over time, our relationship progressed and we knew that we needed to be together,” said Foster. “Actually, when we first met, he said he didn’t even like me. I think he thought I was a bit of a jerk. I guess I grow on people. Now, we, purchased a house together.”
Their dream of being recognized by the United States as a legally married couple has now come true. Just wanting to be like everyone else, the Supreme Court decision has not only positively affected them spiritually but financially as well.
Foster, 52, owns a no-kill shelter called Hearts of Life Animal Rescue while Autrey works at a local pet store.
Tragedy struck the family when Foster had a pulmonary embolism last January. Severely weakened by the medical emergency, Foster has been adapting to receiving supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day and being unable to perform physical activity.
“That is one of the many reasons we are so happy to be married. I cannot work anymore and do not make enough money to pay for [health care],” said Foster. “We pay taxes like everyone else. It seems like we were being discriminated against because my job would allow partner benefits, but we couldn’t be married.”
He continued to say that if the worst happened, his loved ones would be in a financial crisis. Most importantly, Foster and Autrey have to provide for the their two children.
Eight years ago, they made the decision to became foster parents. After more than 40 children had gone through their home, they decided to adopt J.P. and Shannon.
With that in mind, they are both relieved that Social Security benefits will transfer if something happens to either one of them.
Foster said that he and his family have been subject to discrimination in Hopkins County, but it has been on a limited basis. He said friends they have had for years are now offended that they have decided to be married.
“I am disappointed in how some people are posting really hateful messages on Facebook,” said Foster. “I try not to impose, but I have upset some people and lost some friends. I have been the same person all these years. If I am excited about something that affects my family, why am I supposed to be quiet and ashamed of it? It is truly beyond me.”
Refusing to be discouraged by discrimination, Foster and Autrey are focusing on their wedding day and making sure their kids learn to accept others for who they are.
“Our plan is to have a reception, after we pay for all the expenses,” said Foster. “We have already had a few people tell us they cannot attend because they do not believe in it.”
Although not all the RSVPs have been returned, Foster believes several hundred people will be showing up for their wedding reception.
“Joe and I are in this for the long hall and are committed. We are going be like my grandparents and be together forever,” said Foster. “We are raising our kids to be agreeable with people and not teach hate. It’s sad that some people look for all the bad things in people and can’t be happy for others.”