Music publicist and advocate for LBGT rights Shane Bitney Crone was in Washington two weeks ago when the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and left standing a ruling overturning Proposition 8, clearing the way for same-sex marriages in California.
“It was a surreal experience and a very bittersweet one,” Crone, 27, said over the phone from his home in L.A.
Because of DOMA and Proposition 8, Crone was never able to marry his long-time companion, Tom Bridegroom, who died in May 2011 when he fell off the roof of an apartment building while taking photos.
The two had met through a mutual friend shortly after Crone arrived in Los Angeles from his hometown in Montana and gotten a job as a production assistant at “Entertainment Tonight.” Bridegroom, who was 29 when he died, had been an actor and co-host on MTV’s “The X-Effect.”
“Tom and I were waiting for marriage,” Crone said. Though the couple had their own music PR business and owned a house, neither had a will. And as Crone found out after Bridegroom died, he had no rights accorded married couples because he was not recognized as Bridegroom’s partner or immediate family.
Crone was also prevented from attending Bridegroom’s funeral in his Indiana hometown by Bridegroom's parents, who never accepted the fact that their son was gay. Crone’s name wasn't mentioned in Bridegroom’s obituary notice or memorial service. He finally got to say goodbye to his partner by visiting the gravesite in secret.
A year later, Crone posted “It Could Happen to You” on YouTube, a heartbreaking 10-minute video that chronicled their relationship and the aftermath of Bridegroom’s death. The video went viral, attracting about 3.4 million views.
A feature-length documentary based on the video, “Bridegroom,” a successful Kickstarter project directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (creator of the TV series “Designing Women”), recently won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"Bridegroom" will be shown Saturday at the 2013 Outfest LGBT Film Festival in Los Angeles, with Crone in attendance.
Outfest director of programming KP Pepe was eager to include “Bridegroom” in the festival.
“That film is touching on so many levels,” Pepe said. “I am finding people have such different responses to it. People who are very active in marriage civil rights are responding in one way. When I looked at it, it made me feel about the briefness of life and [think] how I am living my life.”
Crone said he never believed “It Could Happen to You” would go viral.
“I thought maybe a few thousand people in L.A. would share it because that’s where I live,” he said. “I made it live a little after midnight on May 7, the anniversary of his death -- and I went to bed. I woke up and Perez Hilton had already tweeted it and Huffington Post wrote about it. It already took off.”
Making the video, he said, “was a therapeutic process and at the same time I kind of wanted to do it because I thought I could prevent people from going through what I went through. Death was something you didn’t talk about. I think for a lot of people, you just don’t think something like this can happen.”
It took a lot of courage for Crone to post his video and become an activist for marriage equality. Both he and Bridegroom were bullied growing up, he said, and the experience left him feeling that “there was something wrong with myself.”
“The one thing about Tom is that he was the confident one,” Crone said. “He was always encouraging me to speak up for myself. So for me I reached a point where I said I am not ashamed of the love that we shared. This was kind of my opportunity finally to speak up for myself.”
"Bridegroom" screens Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Directors Guild Theater.