Ray Vahey and Richard Taylor were a gay couple, partners from 1956 until 2006, when Taylor passed away at the age of 81, of cancer.
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 speach 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. While Vahey did most of the talking, his partner Taylor was an equal participant in preparing the speeches.
Vahey spent most of his career in communications; by the age of 30 he was employed full time as an office manager with a communications company in San Francisco, and by 2005 was semi-retired as a consultant for the communications industry.
According to an article in the Progressive, Vahey met Richard Taylor 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.
Vahey and his partner Richard Taylor 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. Taylor passed away on July 28, 2006.
Ray Vahey intends to honor his longtime partner's legacy by continuing to fight against Wisconsin's proposed amendment until the state's citizens vote in November 2006.
Read "When I Was 30"; article about Vahey from MKEOnLine, November 3, 2005.
Read "No Wedding Bells"; article in The Progressive, August 2006 issue (written prior to Taylor's death).
Credits: bulk of information from various media articles;
Last updated: August-2006.