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'Til Death Do Us Part...

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Ed. note: This powerful first-person account about the fight for a Florida domestic-partnership registry comes to us from sister site Orlando Weekly, where Billy Manes is a staff writer. Texas currently doesn't recognize domestic partnerships statewide, either.

“You need to stop lying. I’m not going anywhere, but I really need you to stop lying,” I told Alan, my partner of 11 years, while he sat in a lawn chair in our downtown backyard.

“Would you please just take the dogs and go inside?” was his slurred reply.

It was Easter Sunday, 2012. I had spent the afternoon in Clermont visiting family. When I arrived home, Alan was visibly drunk. His eyes were glazed, and his smile was cocked. He’d been suffering from intense depression and anxiety for a long time, but lately things had been steering toward an abyss.

Still, I didn’t think too much about the exchange. It wasn’t that unusual. I allowed the adrenaline of a drunken squabble to carry me (and the dogs) through the back door and onto a laptop in the back bedroom. I posted a song – a classic Eurythmics antipathy seethe, “Don’t Ask Me Why” – on my Facebook page, anticipating another evening of matrimonial acrimony, soundtracked.

Just as I hit play, at 9:08 p.m., I heard a loud pop, the unmistakable sound of a gunpowder thrust that would change my life forever. The dogs screamed. I jumped up in a panic.

I ran outside to find Alan on his back. His pistol was on the ground about five feet away. There was a gaping hole in his chest. Instinctively, I wrapped my whole body around him, pressing my hand as hard as possible against the wound. Blood rushed through my fingers. I screamed as loud as my constricting throat would allow. Somebody from a neighboring party jumped over my fence and tried to help. I breathed into Alan’s mouth, trying to keep a conversation going all the while.

I could hear him moaning into my ear, but there were no words.

“I love you!” I sobbed. “Please don’t leave me! Please hang on!”

It was only seconds before I had a 911 operator on the phone and the dogs secured. In a few minutes, the police were at my house, yellow crime tape forming a perimeter of doubt. Questions were flying. What happened? Was he breathing? I was pulled out onto the front curb on East Concord Street – left there, listless and on my own, while the paramedics did their best in the backyard. A friend happened to ride by on a scooter; the neighbors came out with bottles of water; the entire Orlando Weekly editorial staff and their respective partners caught wind and began to form a vigil as we awaited the inevitable. I was questioned by an Orlando police officer. My hands were photographed for gunpowder. I was asked to give a statement. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want it to be final.

Also, ironically perhaps, I didn’t want it in the news.

“He was drunk. He’s been sick. He killed himself,” is what I forced out.

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