The Love Story That Convinced Bill Clinton To Support Marriage Equality

BridegroomWhen Shane Bitney Crone posted a video called It Could Happen To You on YouTube in 2012, it was inconceivable to him that it would become such an internet sensation, not to mention a potential watershed moment in the struggle for LGBT equality. “I thought maybe a few thousand people would see it,” Crone says now. “Maybe friends in Los Angeles and the gay community, but I didn’t expect it to spread like it did.”

The video, which depicted the heartbreak and loss Crone felt after the tragic accident that claimed his partner Tom Bridegroom and the aftermath of being kept away from Tom in the hospital because they weren’t married and the funeral due to threats of violence from Tom’s family, was viewed by millions around the world who contacted Crone to share empathy and relate their own similar stories. It also caught the attention of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (who created and wrote Designing Women) who’d met the young couple years before at a wedding, ironically, and decided to turn it into a feature documentary.

The result is the ironically- and perfectly-titled Bridegroom, an emotional and often-humorous true love story that so moved former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend of the director’s, that he introduced it at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring. The documentary will make its television premiere on Oprah‘s OWN network tonight at 10 p.m. following an episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter devoted to LGBT equality and is also streaming on Netflix and a DVD release is scheduled for Nov. 19. Crone, who is sweet, witty and surprisingly uncynical considering what he’s endured, chatted with Queerty the morning after the film’s star-studded Los Angeles premiere about the impact his story has had on people around the world.

Every time you attend a screening of Bridegroom or talk to the media, you’re forced to relive the most traumatic events of your life again. Does it ever get easier?

It was really hard at first in the edit bays, looking at the footage and constantly talking about everything and revisiting the worst moments of my life. Then after posting the YouTube video and seeing the response from people and learning how it was helping people it made it easier to watch it. When I go to festivals now I don’t typically watch the film each time because it is still emotional for me. I usually just stand outside and wait. It’s definitely easier watching it now since I’ve seen it so many times, but it’s not easy necessarily.

Apart from Tom’s death and the aftermath, you also have to once again endure the painful bullying you experienced as a gay teenager. That must be just as painful.

A lot of the footage from high school is quite awkward and you can tell that I was quite lost. When I watch it now it just makes me appreciate that I’ve come so far. It makes it less embarrassing to know that at that time I didn’t think things would ever get better but they did so it makes me feel good.

Has anyone in Tom’s family seen the film and contacted you?

There are a few of his relatives who have seen it and they’re supportive and believe in it. They’ve told me they think Tom would have been proud of it. I’m going to respect them by not saying who they are. It’s a tough position when you’re in a small town and you don’t want to lose your family so I understand why they want to keep it private. I haven’t heard from his parents, just other relatives who think Tom would have been proud of it. Of course, they don’t want anyone attacking Tom’s parents. I hope people don’t, because that won’t help anything.

TomShaneThe film has received an incredible amount of attention so his parents are obviously aware of it.

Yes and we reached out to them numerous times, but we never heard back from them. After the YouTube video went viral several media outlets contacted them, but they didn’t respond. They’ve remained silent and that’s probably what they’ll continue to do. With support from Oprah I feel that will make it hard for them to ignore that it’s out there.

You don’t seem to harbor resentment toward the Bridegrooms. How challenging has it been to forgive them?

It was hard at first. I was just trying to understand how they could do what they did to me. I couldn’t understand it and it hurt. There were moments of anger and frustration. I don’t want to treat them the way they treated me. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child so I’ve tried to be compassionate. I wish them the best and I don’t wish any harm upon them. I hope they see this as an opportunity to change. They could help a lot of people just by saying they made mistakes and honoring their son for who he was. I hope at some point they have a change of heart.

Shane_Bitney_Crone_Love_is_LouderWhat does it mean for your film to have Oprah premiere it on her network?

Throughout this entire experience so much has happened but it’s still unimaginable that it’s gong to premiere on her network. I’m so grateful because her support of the film will help spread the message in a way that would not have been possible without her. To know that she believes in the film and the message, it’s just incredible. It’s a tremendous honor.

Bill Clinton, who’s a friend of Linda’s, has been a vocal supporter of the film, which surprised a lot of people considering controversial decisions he made during his presidency. 

I’ve met President Clinton a couple of times now. He introduced our film at the Tribeca Film Festival. Just to get into that festival is amazing and to have his support is incredible. There are a lot of people who are still upset with him due to his past  decisions, but I think what matters is he’s using his voice and his platform now to help us. For him to support this film is a huge step and I think it will help us reach a lot of people.

Did you two actually chat and discuss the film?

Yes. He told me that it moved him and that he was proud he was of me. He told me how fortunate I am to have such a supportive family. For him, one of the things he took away was how Tom and I both grew up in small towns but it’s almost as if our parents could be friends yet they reacted in such different ways. He really thought that was powerful. To show people how important it is for parents to love their children unconditionally he said he was proud to support it.

Out of everything that’s happened and that you’ve heard, what’s been the most surprising reaction to the film?

I’ve heard from teenagers in different parts of the world who are suicidal, but they watched the YouTube and said it gave them hope and prevented them from taking their own lives. When I hear stories like that, it makes me feel a responsibility to share the story if that’s the affect it’s having. It’s surprising how so many people don’t realize this is still happening.

Watch a clip from Bridegroom below.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #politics #bridegroom #clintondoma stories and more


  • bafan200

    I am looking forward to watching this film tonight. It recently played at a film festival in my hometown, but I was afraid to go as I cry very easily and was afraid I would cause a scene!

    We all need to remember that Bill Clinton’s very first act in office was to sign an executive order allowing gays in the military. This was NOT Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. His first press conference as president the day after signing the executive order lasted one hour and 47 minutes were devoted to the firestorm created by his executive order. Members of his own party stated the next day (Sen. Sam Nunn of GA was one of the most vocal) that gays would never be allowed in the military as long as they were in office. The Christian Right Wing immediately set out to destroy Clinton and his presidency. He was the first president in modern times not to receive a “honeymoon” from Congress because of the executive order. He was forced by members of his own party, the press, the Christian right and the Republicans to compromise on Don’t Ask Don’t tell and resend the executive order or his presidency would have been destroyed. Also, Clinton was the first president to appoint an openly gay man as US ambassador. My senator (former senator Hutchinson from Arkansas) held up the appointment and Clinton was forced to make a recess appointment to get it past Congress. Clinton tried to the the right thing and the Christian Right and the Republicans set out to destroy him and his presidency because of his support for our rights.

  • grero

    Wow. What a coincidence that Bill Clinton started supporting gay marriage when the majority of Americans did. So principled!

  • aequalitasTN

    This documentary was amazing. I haven’t cried in 5 years, but I freakin lost is when he said he went into the hospital room and touched his leg and l gave and did one final “Tap, tap, tap.” I challenge anyone to watch this and not be moved.

  • John Doe

    It is already available on Netflix for streaming.

  • ted72

    I donated to their kickstarter. So glad this is finally coming to fruition.

  • ted72

    @John Doe: @John Doe:
    No, it’s not. I just checked.

  • unclemike

    @ted72: Yes, it is, as a streaming download, just not as a DVD for mail.

    At least, it’s available in my area, SoCal.

  • DarkZephyr

    Just started streaming it on Netflix now. I fully expect to have some serious need of tissue paper.

  • Dxley

    This one is taking the Oscar.

  • John Doe

    @ted72: It’s not streaming on Netflix? Then how was I able to watch it on Netflix tonight? Was I dreaming?

    By the way… it’s a very good documentary. Very touching / emotional. Not one of those documentaries that put you to sleep – not at all.

  • John Doe

    The Netflix link:

    “Helmed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, this illuminating documentary chronicles the story of Shane Bitney Crone, who finds himself shut out and deprived of the legal protections of marriage after his same-sex partner dies in a tragic accident.”

  • sportsguy1983

    If anyone actually believes this rubbish that the former president is trying to sell is nothing but a boob and partisan hack. He changed his opinion (or “evolved”) as the politics of the issue started shifting.

  • Cam

    I LOVED this on Youtube! Can’t wait to see the movie.

    Also, isn’t it interesting how people “Evolve” on issues when they aren’t up for reelection anymore? Gee….. how convenient.

  • Fawkes

    It’s pretty pathetic how Bill Clinton, quite possibly the WORST president for LGBT rights, is now celebrated by the LGBT community as some sort of hero. GLAAD turned itself into a laughing stock by honoring him. It’d be like the ADL or NAACP giving an award to David Duke. To be fair, maybe the award was given ironically, because if it wasn’t for people like Bill Clinton, the LGBT movement wouldn’t have unjust laws to fight against. At least it gives us something to do.

  • Thomas

    I was so deeply touched by these two beautiful spirits and how their love transformed their lives and the lives of those around them. Most of the Gay Community really “Miss the Boat” when it comes to real love and commitment. These two young men took me back to the time when I first came out and I allowed my heart to believe, that above all else… love was the most important thing you could ever do in life. I hope many will watch this and realize that although you may not understand us and our fight for equality. I hope you understand our desire to love and be loved in return.

  • tdx3fan

    @bafan200: I kind of have to agree about the stupidity of the Clinton vilification. It is as if people cannot remember recent history. Clinton had zero choice in DOMA and DADT. They were both policies that were enacted as pure compromise. At the time they were enacted they were actually seen as forward thinking (DADT) or as preventing a worse alternative (DOMA versus a constitutional amendment). The fact that we can now look back and think that those two acts are homophobic is a testament to the changing times and major progression we have made… it says little about Clinton as a man or as a president.

  • DonW

    @Fawkes: Clinton was the WORST president for LGBT rights? Please. What about Reagan and Bush Sr., who ignored the AIDS crisis? What about W, who ran a campaign pandering to homophobes?

    Clinton is a pragmatist. As bafan200 pointed out, his FIRST executive order tried to unconditionally lift the ban on gays in the military. It proved beyond his power. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a compromise — an IMPROVEMENT that was meant to do away with witch hunts as long as LGBT service members hid their orientation. Admittedly an ugly compromise, but it was the best that was possible at the time.

    As for DOMA, it’s quite possible that if he hadn’t signed it, the Right would have mobilized enough momentum for an anti-marriage amendment to the Constitution, which could take generations to undo.

    Be careful before you attack our allies, however imperfect. Clinton could have taken squeaky-clean stands on principle that would have failed miserably in practice. Instead, he dealt with real-world politics, got a little muddy, but laid the groundwork for our recent victories.

  • tdx3fan

    @Fawkes: Bill Clinton was the worst president for LGBT rights? YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS! If you want to look at the worst president in recent history for LGBT rights lets look at Ronald Reagan and the total mishandling of the AIDS crisis. You are living proof that people that know nothing about history should not run their mouths about it.

  • tdx3fan

    @Fawkes: You are aware that when DADT was passed, the military had a long history of not only asking but evading. If you were even remotely suspected of “homosexual activity” at the time you were given a dishonorable discharge. DADT was actually a step forward from that because it was designed to end the witch hunts.

    You are also aware that when DOMA was passed, the vast majority of the country was pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage? At that point, they most likely had the numbers to do it, and DOMA was an easier compromise… it was also viewed as unconstitutional even at the exact moment it was passed. If there would have been an amendment instead of DOMA, our struggle would have been pushed back at least fifty years.

  • BJ McFrisky

    This is about as convincing as Obama’s “evolution.” In other words, when it becomes politically necessary, then it’s time to support the people you didn’t support yesterday. How noble.

  • sportsguy1983

    DADT and DOMA as compromise? ha! It goes to show some people will make up any excuse, no matter how ridiculous it is, to justify their blind partisanship. A TRUE leader LEADS. If Clinton truly wanted to lead, he wouldn’t have signed either into law. He did it purely to assist his reelection campaign and that is as repugnant as those who use anti-gay propaganda for their reelection.

  • pauleky

    @BJ McFrisky: Hey, at least they support us now, unlike the GOP that had at least nine anti-gay planks in their platform last election. While I’m glad to see a few Republicans coming around, they still have a LOOONNNGGG way to go.

  • BJ McFrisky

    @pauleky: Agreed about the GOP. They’re going the way of the dinosaurs. I just hope we’re smart enough not to make icons out of political opportunists like Slick Willie Clinton.

  • bafan200

    Clinton risked his entire presidency by signing the executive order as his FIRST OFFICIAL ACT as president on the afternoon he was sworn in. The executive order was patterned after the executive order signed by Harry Truman allowing blacks in the military. The order Clinton signed was a blanket order with no restrictions on gays in the military. The Joint Chiefs, Sen. Sam Nunn (Democrat from GA and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee went ballistic. The Press was also not very favorable to Clinton. Actually I cannot remember anyone in Congress who strongly supported him. After the firestorm he was FORCED to compromise with DADT. I it important to pay attention to the actual history regarding his actions and what transpired after he signed the executive order. Clinton TRIED to help gay rights more than any president in the history of the US and was crucified by the Christian Right, The Military, the GOP and members of his own party. This is FACT not opinion.

  • greybat

    Girls, Girls, Girls! You’re all pretty! Now can we talk about the Movie?

  • patrik_czech

    Hello everyone, I would like to ask you if is possible to download somewhere Oprah Show episode with Shane Bitney? Netflix is not available in my country. Thank you very much for information! Patrik

Comments are closed.