Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Power Couple Chris Hughes & Sean Eldridge

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes (right) and partner Sean Eldridge (left), political director for Freedom to Marry, announced their engagement a year ago. Hughes had proposed in the traditional way – down on one knee with a ring in a box – while the couple were celebrating New Years in Thailand. Four months later they were on the cover of The Advocate, headlining the annual list of forty LGBT leaders/newsmakers under the age of 40 (in their case, way under 40).

At age 19 Hughes was at Harvard on a scholarship when he and three friends founded Facebook. The 2010 movie The Social Network recounted that tale (Chris Hughes was played by actor Patrick Mapel). In 2006 Chris graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, then lived for a year in California. In 2007 he left for Chicago, where he oversaw the social media efforts of presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was then a long shot. The media subsequently put Hughes on a pedestal, honoring him with headlines such as “The kid who made Obama president.” Having made his fortune off Facebook (at least $500 million), he launched, a social networking hub aimed at connecting donors and volunteers to non-profit organizations.

Hughs met Sean Eldridge on a blind date in November 2005, when Eldridge was still a social network virgin. “I literally joined Facebook the day I met Chris,” Sean relates. Eldridge, three years younger than Hughes, also went on to campaign for Obama, as part of the team that put together Students for Obama. Heady from their political success, in 2008 they dined as a couple at the White House, as guests of Obama at his first state dinner. By 2009 Eldridge was a law school student at Columbia University, but dropped out in order to fight full time for the right to marry. Eldridge became communications director for the national group Freedom to Marry in early 2010 and was soon promoted to political director.

Since the couple make their in-town home in NYC’s Soho district, this cause was especially close to their hearts. Then, on July 24, 2011, New York State passed legislation giving gay couples the right to marry. Nevertheless, they decided to stick to their wedding date this coming June. They have planned a rehearsal dinner at Per Se, an intimate wedding at the couple’s home in Garrison, NY, and a reception that evening at Cipriani Wall Street, all orchestrated by Bryan Rafanelli, who planned Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.

With a victory in Washington State still just hours old, there are currently only seven states plus the District of Columbia where gay marriages have legal recognition – Massachusetts, Iowa, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington and DC. California allowed gays to marry for six months in 2008, until the Proposition 8 initiative reversed the legislation. A week ago the Ninth Circuit Court of California ruled 2 to 1 that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, so stay tuned. If there is a momentum gathering for same sex marriage, Eldridge deserves a large amount of credit. Hughes is a major donor to Freedom to Marry and serves as an advisor. “As a gay man, I want the freedom to marry Sean so we can build a family and a life together over the long term,” Hughes says. “I think marriage is a basic fundamental freedom that every American should have.”

We all owe a huge debt to these two men. With the advantage of wealth, the force of passionate conviction and wisdom beyond their years, Hughes and Eldridge are destined to become major forces in progressive politics.

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