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social sciences

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Hughes, Chris (b. 1983), and Sean Eldridge (b. 1986)  
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It is thus somewhat ironic that Eldridge came out as a gay man at Deep Springs, something he had not felt able to do in Ohio. "Growing up I really didn't see out people, so it just didn't seem like an option," he told JC Reindl of the Toledo Blade. "There were no out students or out faculty or real out adults that I knew growing up in Ottawa Hills and Toledo."

After a year at Deep Springs, Eldridge was accepted at Brown University but deferred his enrollment to spend some time working in Boston. It was there that a fellow Deep Springs alumnus introduced him to Hughes in 2005. Their romance blossomed immediately, and they quickly became a committed couple.

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When Hughes moved to Palo Alto in 2006 Eldridge accompanied him and took a job with a software company. Once Hughes relocated to Chicago to work on the Obama campaign, Eldridge enrolled at Brown but made frequent trips to Illinois. Eldridge also became actively involved in the campaign effort, working as an organizer of Students for Barack Obama.

Following Eldridge's graduation from Brown in 2009, the couple moved to New York City, where Eldridge entered the law school at Columbia University.

In early 2010, however, after the New York legislature failed to pass a bill that would have brought marriage equality to the state, Eldridge left Columbia to become an advocate for the cause. He accepted a position as Political Director of Freedom to Marry, a non-profit organization devoted to securing equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. He served in that position until June 2011.

Hughes and Eldridge have been generous donors to the drive for marriage equality; in 2010, the couple announced a $225,000 challenge grant by which they would match donations to the cause, including $100,000 to Freedom to Marry. Indeed, they made the public announcement of their engagement in January 2011 at their loft home in lower Manhattan a fundraiser for marriage equality.

But, stated Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom to Marry, to Reindl, "As wonderful as it is to have the money that they donated, I even more value Sean's talent and passion and partnership in the actual work. This is someone who's not just writing checks, but is really rolling up his sleeves and helping build a campaign day-to-day."

Hughes declared to Ari Karpel of The Advocate that he and Eldridge "both want to have a serious impact on the world" and so are following the example of Tim Gill of the Gill Foundation and Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation, who support both glbtq rights and other progressive causes.

Hughes and Eldridge were invited to President Obama's first state dinner in 2009. Nevertheless, Eldridge commented to Karpel in 2011, "[Obama] says he's on this journey, [but] I think he's not moving quickly enough. I know that in his heart of hearts he has respect for us, he has respect for gay people. But he doesn't get a free pass."

Eldridge also noted that he "was lucky to be there to watch [Obama] sign the bill when he ended military discrimination"—referring to the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

However, Eldridge added, "It's not all on him; it's on us as well." Not surprisingly, he and Hughes have taken an active role and have been visible advocates for glbtq rights.

"As a gay man, I want the freedom to marry Sean so we can build a family and a life together over the long term," Hughes told Reindl. "I think marriage is a basic fundamental freedom that every American should have."

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