This Couple Fought for 22 Years to Be Together


Eliav and Paul

Falling in love should be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, accompanied by much celebration with friends and family. But imagine finding your soul-mate only to be shunned instead of celebrated. Imagine having members of your family cut off communication with you for 10 years because of who you’ve fallen in love with. Picture years of attending all of your friend’s weddings, knowing in the back of your mind you wont be able to invite them to yours in return… not a legal wedding, anyway. Envision a world that told you your love wasn’t the same, that it was not accepted, and that it wasn’t equal.

That was the reality that Eliav Barr and Paul Koulgeorge faced for 22 years.

Eliav and Paul, ages 53 and 50 respectively, were born in the 1960’s.

“We were both born before Stonewall. Until 1969, you could be arrested just for being in a gay bar, and that was in liberal New York City. The Stonewall riots are what paved the way for the modern Gay Rights movement. At a young age, we were participating in marches and protests to gain basic rights taken for granted by most Americans. “

To really put it into perspective, here’s a photo of the couple a month when they started dating in 1994.  They were in their late 20’s.

Now here’s a picture of the couple on their wedding day, 22 years later, when the Supreme Court finally legalized same-sex marriage. The grooms were in their early 50’s.

It’s heartbreaking to see how long Paul and Eliav waited to make their union official. But, at the same time, it’s also a testimony to how much they truly love each other. For over two decades, they defended their love to society, family members, and the government. And perhaps what’s most remarkable of all, is that the couple has maintained an outlook of gratitude rather than resentment.

“Being an older couple, we don’t take any of our freedom or rights for granted. We have seen SO much progress and growth over the past 50 years and have a perspective that leaves us with awe and amazement of how far the world has come. We appreciate it more than some of our younger gay friends do, because we lived through the hard times and don’t forget them.”

The Way They Met

In 1994, Eliav, was a doctor at University of Chicago. He was working hard and determined to find a life partner. Paul on the other hand, was a young socialite, enjoying the city life and all the cultural delights it had to offer. He worked for Kraft as a marketing manager for Bull’s Eye Barbecue Sauce.

Little did this right-brained scientist and left-brained creative know, but they were about to come into each other’s world and change it up forever.

At 29 years old, Eliav was tired of looking for love, and decided to place a personal ad in the back of the Chicago Reader. Keep in mind this was the early 90’s, so the internet wasn’t much of a thing. There were no dating apps or connecting on Facebook yet.

In his ad, Eliav stated he was looking for a handsome, serious, educated man, who, like himself, was well-traveled, enjoyed art, and was looking to settle down. Paul remembers reading the ad and thinking, “well this is one pretentious fellow, but maybe it’s worth a shot!”

The two talked on the phone a couple of times and then set a date to meet for lunch. That date was January 15th, 1994 – the 5th coldest day in Chicago’s history. Eliav was the first to arrive at the agreed upon Mediterranean restaurant, only to find out the restaurant was closed due to the weather. So he stood outside waiting for Paul who ended up being 15 minutes late. A very painful 15 minutes for Eliav, who nearly froze to the sidewalk. Finally Paul arrived in his Form Tempo, and Eliav jumped in. They went to a different spot nearby where they shared a wonderful lunch, and then made plans to meet again the following day.

For Eliav, it was love at first sight. He spent the rest of the evening reminiscing about their date and thinking about Paul. Paul on the other hand was off to his next date with another eligible bachelor who had responded to his ad.

However, as promised, they met up again the following day… and every day thereafter for two weeks.

Finally, Paul dropped all his other leads, and the rest is history.

The Wedding

“When you’ve waited 22 years to get married, you go all out! We decided to have our wedding in the most beautiful part of the country, Napa Valley. It combined the best of everything we love – wine, food, travel, family and friends.”

“It meant the world to us to finally be able to get married in front of all our loved ones.” Photo Credit: Briana Marie Photography

The couple’s older siblings read a summary of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.  Finally, the ceremony concluded with Paul’s niece Katherine singing “At Last” by Etta James.

“We waited 22 years to get married, so hearing my niece sing while looking out at our dearest friends and family was such a special moment. I was crying because it was just so emotional.”

Everything about their special day was magical, but another highlight was definitely the 3D-printed cake topper of Eliav and Paul on their wedding cake.

When asked what is the best part about marriage, Paul responded,

“We still run to greet each other at the door when the other one gets home from work! If you still get excited to see someone who has only been away for 8 hours, that’s a happy marriage!” said Eliav.

Ohhhhhh yeahhhh, at lastttttttttttttt. #LOVEISLOVEISLOVEISLOVE