Shane and Tom were soulmates. Together for six years, they waited patiently, along with thousands of other California couples, for Proposition 8, the state's marriage ban, to be overturned.
By the time marriage equality returned permanently to the Golden State in 2013, Tom Bridegroom was dead. At age 29, Tom slipped and fell off the roof of their Los Angeles apartment building.
For the heartbroken Shane, the loss of Tom was only the beginning of the most tragic and difficult challenge he would face. As filmmaker Linda Bloodworth Thomason (creator of TV's Designing Woman) recounts, Shane Bitney Crone was soon to be shut out of Tom's funeral. No mention of Shane was made at Tom's memorial service. Shane had no say in the arrangements or the burial. Personal mementos of his beloved Tom were kept from him. Shane even received death threats from Tom's family, who knew perfectly well how much they had meant to each other.
Had the couple been able to marry, Shane would legally have been Tom's primary survivor, with all the legal rights that would have entailed.
Thomason's film, named after Tom, details the entire tragic story. Shane happily participated in it's making. Few films have illustrated the second class status of LGBT people more powerfully than Bridegroom. No film has ever made it clearer just how essential marriage equality is. Marriage is more than an old fashioned romantic notion: it's a necessity that LGBT families need.
There won't be a dry eye in the house when Shane visits Tom's grave at a time he knew no one else would be there. Tom's tombstone stands in between those of his still living parents – their final attempt to keep Shane away.
"I used to be OK with having equal rights without marriage," Shane told SFGN via phone. "But not any more. No one will respect domestic partnership like they do marriage. I dreamed of getting married. Like most people it wasn't about the protections, it was about the symbol. When my partner passed away I realized how different it might have been had we married."
Shane explained the documentary's origins.
"I posted a YouTube video," he said. "I heard from thousands of people who had went through something similar. I realized how often these things happen." One of the people he heard from was Linda Bloodworth Thomason.
The finished film received a great deal of attention, ultimately catching the eye of Oprah Winfrey, who aired it on OWN in October 2013. Shane doesn't know if the Bridegroom family has seen it.
"I was hoping they would participate," he said. "We reached out to them numerous times, but they didn't respond. Tom does have relatives who are supportive and encourage me, but they couldn't participate because of the family."
Shane, now doing all he can to promote the film, says he's doing OK.
"I'm in a much better place," he said. "The YouTube video and the film helped me heal. Knowing how the film is resonating with people makes me feel good and that I'm doing the right thing."
Amazingly, Shane feels that he might, one day, be able to love again.
"I'm not going to purposely shut myself off," he said. "I didn't plan to meet Tom, it just happened. If it happens again it'll be organically. I just hope that by me sharing my story, it'll inspire others to share theirs. Personal stories change hearts and minds."
Bridegroom is now available on DVD.