The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The unlikely faces of same-sex marriage

Larry Duncan and Randy Shepherd (Meryl Schenker Photography)

When you think of gay marriage and the folks who are eager to get gay married, Larry Duncan and Randy Shepherd would never come to mind. They defy every commonly held stereotype of gay men. In fact, upon seeing their photo, a colleague said, “They look like a couple of old coots.” They also look marvelous.

Duncan and Shepherd were among the throng of same-sex couples getting a marriage license in Washington state on the first day that they could do so. And their photo has been posted on Facebook, Twitter and a slew of websites.

“I’ve been at this for 22 years and have never had a photo go viral,” Seattle-based photographer Meryl Schenker told me in an e-mail. She captured Duncan’s and Shepherd’s solemn faces in the wee hours of Dec. 6 and put them on her Web site. Schenker wrote in the caption to her photo:

One month after Washington State voters approved the state’s marriage equality law in [Referendum] 74, same-sex couples get marriage licenses for the first time on December 6th, 2012. At around 1:30am, Larry Duncan, 56, left, and Randy Shepherd, 48, from North Bend, Wash. got their marriage license. The two plan to wed on December 9th, the first day it is possible for them to wed in Washington State. They have been together for 11 years.

According to Schenker, Duncan is a retired psychology nurse and Shepherd is a a computer programmer. They moved to Washington from Texas seven years ago, Schenker said, “because it’s more gay friendly.”

As marriage equality continues its advance from novelty to normalcy, the faces of the same-sex couples coming forward to declare their love for each other should challenge and expand everyone’s notion of what love is or what it ought to be. Duncan and Shepherd might strike some as an unlikely couple. But that’s what made their photo so touching and powerful.