Gustavo Archilla, Gay-Marriage Pioneer, Passes Away At 96

Gustavo Archilla, whose same-sex marriage in Canada more than a decade ago inspired marriage equality advocates worldwide, died from complications of an aneurysm on November 27. He was 96.

“Gus” and his husband, Elmer Lokkins, met on the street in New York City in 1945, but didn’t tie the knot until 2003, eloping to Canada shortly after marriage equality was legalized there.

For decades, the men lived together—in the beginning with Archilla’s siblings as roommates—but kept their affair quiet. Relatives and friends understood the nature of their relationship, but it was not discussed.

Reports The New York Times:

“Uncle Gus and Uncle Elmer,” their expanding collection of nieces and nephews called them, with not everyone realizing that the gregarious men who went everywhere together and were happy to take the children to the museum or the park were more than friends.

“Whether they were behind the door or out of the closet, it didn’t matter to them,” Ms. Dean said. “They just enjoyed life.”

The men became icons in the battle for equality when, well into their 80s, they tied the knot at Niagara Falls and became active in the marriage-equality movement.

“What we did was finally cap it all up — make it seem complete,” Archilla told the Times. “It was about fulfilling this desire people have to dignify what you have done all your life—to qualify it by going through the ceremony so that it has the same seriousness, the same objective that anybody getting married would be entitled to.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Archilla.