Richard Taylor and Ray Vahey were a gay couple, partners from 1956 until 2006, when Richard passed away at the age of 81.
During most of their lives together, the couple concealed their relationship from family, work associates, and some friends. But in 2005, when the Wisconsin legislature passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in Wisconsin, the couple "went public" about their relationship, and worked hard with Fair Wisconsin to defeat the amendment, which was put on the November 2006 ballot in Wisconsin. Beginning with a speech the couple gave at Milwaukee's PrideFest in June 2005, for the next year the couple would appear at numerous public hearings and other venues to speak out and educate the public about what such an amendment would really mean.
According to partner Vahey's recollections, recounted in an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Taylor grew up in Cleveland Ohio. "When Richard was 17, he convinced his father to allow him to join the Navy during World War II," Vahey said. Taylor served aboard a naval tanker on convoy duty, first in the North Atlantic and then in the Mediterranean, and finally into the Pacific.
Taylor, who had a high school education, was also self-taught, widely read in economics and philosophy, history and politics.
According to an article in the Progressive, Richard Taylor met Ray Vahey in Ohio in 1956. Taylor, age 31, a World War II veteran, was managing a toy warehouse in Cleveland. Vahey, age 18 and just out of high school, was in town for the Labor Day weekend. They fell in love the evening they met. “It was the height of the busy season and he had to work,” Vahey recalls. “He taught me how to use a ticket pricer. It was an unusual honeymoon, but it was romantic to me.”
Over the years, they lived in Ohio, Illinois, California, New Jersey and Virginia. In 2000 they decided to move to Milwaukee, a city they knew from visits to Taylor's brother.
Taylor and Vahey had planned a wedding ceremony for September 16, the 50th anniversary of their life together. But when Taylor became increasingly ill, they had moved up the date, and were married in a religious ceremony at the hospital on Memorial Day, May 29, 2006.
Richard Taylor passed away on Friday, July 28, 2006 of stomach cancer.
Read "No Wedding Bells"; article in The Progressive, August 2006 issue (written prior to Taylor's death).
Read Death Notice; in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; July 30, 2006.
Read "A Life of Love Was Made Public In The End"; article in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after his death; August 1, 2006.
Credits: bulk of information from various media articles;
Last updated: August-2006.