Lawrence couple see gay marriage as civil rights issue

Should a proposed Kansas constitutional amendment banning gay marriage show up on the Nov. 2 ballot, Lawrence residents Michael Silverman and David Greenbaum are among those who won’t be voting for it.

Silverman, a 32-year-old software engineer, and Greenbaum, a 33-year-old computer consultant, have tried every way they know to make their 10-year relationship a recognized marriage.

“In this society you grow up taught when two people love each other and want to commit their lives together they get married,” Silverman said.

So, even as Kansas lawmakers move to enshrine the state’s ban on same-sex marriages in the state Constitution, Silverman and Greenbaum are looking for ways to legalize and legitimize their relationship.

They were “married” in 1999 at Temple Israel, a synagogue in Omaha, Neb.

“We were attending a forum on gay issues in Judaism when someone in the audience asked if a gay couple could be married in the synagogue,” Silverman said. “The president responded by saying no one has ever asked, so we seized the opportunity.”

The two became official members of the synagogue and later were married there.

“The term we used at the time was a ‘brit ahavah,’ a covenant of love,” Greenbaum said. “What is a covenant of love? It’s a marriage.”

Silverman and Greenbaum, who met as Kansas University students 10 years ago, also have traveled to Vermont to have their partnership be recognized as a civil union. Now, following a recent court ruling, they say they’d like to go to Massachusetts to be married.

Mike Silverman, left, and David Greenbaum

They’ve been closely watching developments nationally as hundreds of gay couples have come forward in California and elsewhere seeking to be married.

“It almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw the elderly couple in San Francisco getting married,” Silverman said. “I don’t know how anyone with a heart would not be touched by it.”

The couple said they see the gay marriages and legally recognized unions as long overdue civil rights victories.

“We just went on vacation to California and rented a car,” Greenbaum said. “I asked how much it cost to add a spouse and the clerk said it was free.”

With no trouble, Greenbaum and Silverman were able to drive away with the car as a married couple.

“For anyone looking at the situation, they would have thought it’s just two people renting a car,” Greenbaum said. “For us it was a civil rights victory. We were treated like everyone else.”

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