A Utah lesbian couple is finally married, 50 years after the women started dating and three months after one of them passed away.
On Tuesday, District Judge Patrick Corum ruled that Bonnie Foerster of South Salt Lake was indeed married to Beverly Grossaint, her partner of a half-century. Grossaint died on May 27, 2018 at age 82 after a lengthy illness. “I can finally start healing,” said a tearful Foerster, who is legally blind and a double amputee. Of her late love, she told the judge, “I was born for her, and she was born for me. … There was never anyone else in my heart.”
And as of Tuesday, Foerster and Grossaint are now married in the eyes of the law. It’s not clear yet whether that will affect Foerster’s access to any death benefits from Grossaint’s passing. According to her attorney, Roger Hoole, having a marriage recognized after the death of one party is rare, but not unheard of. “An unsolemnized marriage can be recognized, even involving a deceased person.”
Grossaint’s emphysema and chronic heart failure meant Foerster was her caregiver for the past three years. The couple feared their marital status might interfere with Foerster’s Medicaid, so they never married.
The Utah lesbian couple met in New York City in January 1968, when Foerster was fleeing an abusive husband. When Grossaint, a Women’s Army Corps veteran, first saw her, Foerster had broken ribs and was wearing dark sunglasses to hide a black eye. “Two seconds [after we were introduced], she came back and told me to take the damn sunglasses off,” Foerster told the Salt Lake Tribune. When she did, “[Beverly] said, ‘I can see your soul.’ And I fell in love. I looked into her blue eyes, and I fell in love.”
The Utah lesbian couple soon moved in together and made no effort to hide that they were a lesbian couple. They even marched in the first New York City Pride parade in 1970. “We had people throw garbage at us,” Foerster told the judge. “We went home, took showers and got clean. Those people still have garbage in their hands.”
They moved to Utah in 1979 to be near Grossaint’s ailing mother and ended up staying for the next 39 years. Grossaint worked for the Utah Public Service Commission, while Foerster worked at an insurance company until 1988, when she was put on disability for back problems and worsening eyesight.
For much of the past 30 years, Grossaint was actually Foerster’s caretaker: She’s had 29 back surgeries, survived breast and cervical cancer, and endured macular degeneration that has left her legally blind. She also suffers from a rare bone infection, and, two years ago, had to have both legs amputated above the knee.
But despite her illnesses and the loss of her true love, Foerster was the picture of a blushing bride on Tuesday. “I’m numb from happiness. I’m married,” Foerster, who wears Grossaint’s rings as well as her own, said outside the courthouse. “I’m a married woman. I’ve waited 50 years… I’m an old bride, but I’m a happy one.”
Judge Corum didn’t dictate the start date for Foerster and Grossaint’s marriage: Her petition listed June 26, 2015 — the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges. Corum suggested the date could be set to December 20, 2013, when same-sex marriage was legalized in Utah. She could push the effective date to 1968, when they began to live together, said Corum, “but that makes it [legally] messier than it needs to be.”
Regardless, Foerster says she’s holding a wedding reception/50th anniversary party for September 15.