A Bittersweet Love Story Through 7 Decades
Bill Campbell & John Hilton • New York, NY
This story was originally published in June 2013, released in partnership with The Devotion Project.
Today, Freedom to Marry and the Devotion Project released a new video featuring Bill Campbell and John Hilton, a couple who lived together in New York for 54 years. Their love and commitment spanned seven decades - from meeting in the 1950s as young men through the 2010s. The video narrative leads us through the moment they met, the months where Bill wrote letters to John during John's military deployment, and the ways that John helped Bill through the early stages of Parkinson's disease. Watch the video HERE:
The video was filmed as part of The Devotion Project in April 2011, and the version released today marks the second in a series of collaborations between Freedom to Marry and The Devotion Project. At the time of filming, the men were registered as domestic partners in New York, hopeful that someday soon, they would be able to marry in their state and have their marriage treated equally by the federal government.
Just seven weeks before New York passed legislation to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, however, Bill passed away. He and John were never able to legally marry - and to this day, John watches as anti-marriage laws across the country, along with the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act - continue to harm loving same-sex couples.
In reflection of this new video, John explained more about his love for Bill. He said:
"Bill Campbell and John Hilton. What can I say? To be loved for 54 years by the person you love is the greatest gift of them all. Not one false moment in all those years.
When we first met, I was his project. He introduced me to a cultural treasure-house I never knew about. And I introduced him to the ‘popular' side of culture. A marriage made in heaven. And then when he was diagnosed with early Parkinson's disease in 2008, he became my project. I had a chance for three years to pay him back for giving me a life! It was the best three years of our life together.
Our commitment was unshakeable - no government could tell us what we meant to each other. But I know Bill would have liked to see the day we could be married, with equal treatment at the federal level."
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson commented on the video today. He said:
The bond between Bill and John was unmistakable, a true testament to the depth of love that two people can share. They show us why lifelong commitment means so much. It's truly tragic that Bill never had the chance to marry the love of his life and it's a reminder of the human toll of requiring committed couples to wait to be able to marry. The time for the freedom to marry nationwide is now.
Watch the first collaboration between Freedom to Marry and the Devotion Project HERE: Gail & Audrey: An Unexpected Love Story. And below, check out a GIF showcasing their love, available on our Right Side of History Tumblr page.