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Affinity Trailblazers celebrate love--and a grant
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

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The mood at the Affinity Annual Senior Trailblazers Luncheon held at the Chicago Theological Seminary Nov. 7 was one of cautious celebration.

Affinity Board President Ebonie Davis announced a $25,000 grant that the 20-year-old advocacy organization received from the Chicago Community Trust.

The Trailblazers will benefit from the award. Davis said this will mean expansion of the services and events that the volunteer-led program for people older than 60 will receive.

However, during the panel discussion, moderator Phyllis Johnson wondered about the emotional, financial and legal impacts of being a couple in a long-term relationship in the age of marriage equality.

Panelists Joy Burkhart and Sandra White have been together for 22 years. "We moved towards marriage because of legal reasons," Burkhart said. "You know you are with the right person when they make sacrifices for you. We've had some atomic booms but we love each other. A lot of people give up but we've discovered spiritually that those are the things helped us to grow. When you get married and say those vows you want to live up to them. Some people do not understand that marriage is truly a commitment that you have made, that you have vowed."

Lambda Legal Tyron Garner Fellow Aisha Davis cautioned that "although the law says that you are married, there are still judges, county clerks and people who will try to question the legitimacy of your relationship not only with your spouse but with your children. If you are dealing with health issues, they could also challenge access in a hospital, nursing home or an assisted living institution."

"We have rights but they are so fragile," Johnson agreed. "Legally we need to still watch them."

"Just saying I'm married to somebody may not work, depending on the place you are," Davis said.

Broadway United Methodist Church Pastor Rev. Vernice L. Thorn LPC discussed the resistance of the church to validate same-sex marriages.

"Marriage is not just for the couple, it's for family and community as well," Thorn said. "When you pronounce a couple married, the community and family has some responsibility in supporting the couple."

Trailblazers volunteer Torlene Williams, Affinity Board Vice President Anna Deshawn and Affinity Interim Executive Director Maria A. Glover-Wallace delivered closing remarks.

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