In a heart-tugging column published in today’s New York Times, Frank Bruni introduces readers to Chuck Bennett, an 80-year-old gay man living in Maine. Chuck doesn’t expect to get married even if voters in Maine pass marriage equality in a referendum next month as he never found a long-term romantic partner — he was “born 50 years too soon,” he said — but he really hopes it passes just the same.

For Bennett, the marriage focus of the Maine referendum is almost beside the real point, which is validation.

“I see it as something of profound significance,” he said. “Whether anyone winds up getting married in Maine, I don’t care. I care that they can get married.” That right means that gay people are equal to straight people. It recognizes their dignity. His dignity.

Take a few minutes to read Bruni’s column. You’ll marvel along with Chuck Bennett — who was born in 1932, forced out of the Navy in the late 1950s for being gay, and never came out to his parents — about how far LGBT people have come over the course of his eighty years. And if you’re like me, you’ll be reminded of how important marriage equality is, even to members of the LGBT community who may never marry. It’s not just about marriage. It’s about dignity.

Read Frank Bruni’s latest column, At Long Last, Dignity?, here.

Photo: Soo-Jeong Kang

Photo: Soo-Jeong Kang