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photos: Alex is on L, and Cheri is on the R.

by David Cohen

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is one of the most meaningful line ever said about love in any blockbuster movie. In the1970 film Love Story, Ali MacGraw made us wonder what it all means, but to Cheri Giacomi and her partner Alex Ivelic, it means twenty-two years of affection, kindness, compassion and emotions they share with each other over the years.

Now in their late 40′s, their love is just as young as it was on the first day they met. Still passionate and in lust, the two don’t hide their desire for intimacy. You wonder what is the secret to their continuous love and affection?

For Cheri the ability to laugh together with Alex every single day is a necessity for  their love to stay young and strong.  To Alex the simple little things you do everyday with your partner,  are just as important as laughter. “There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t give each other a card, or tell each other I love you, you’re the one for me.” Every person in any relationship should declare their love to each other every single day. The words “I love you” should be used more often and not only on Valentine’s Day. For Alex and Cheri Valentine’s Day is celebrated every single day of the year.

Twenty-two years ago in a gay club at Melrose Park in Illinois, Alex at 104 pound wearing tight  Spandex outfit noticed Cheri’s long brown hair, her white cowboy booths, white jeans and the white shirt with an open back. All she knew, there was a beautiful girl dancing on the dance floor. Alex was determined to get this girl to dance with her before the night is over.  At the end it was Cheri the twenty-two year old woman, who lured Alex into the dancing floor and captured her hart forever.

With the approval and legalization of Civil Union in Illinois, Alex and Cheri decided to get married for the second time. On June 17, 2011, they announced their love and commitment to each other at Chicago’s City Hall. After the wedding ceremony, Alex and Cheri were heading to  Mexico for their honeymoon. They knew how special and meaningful this trip was. They went back to the Riviera Maya Hotel, the place where they tied the knot for the first time in 2009.  Although getting married in Mexico didn’t mean anything legally, it meant a lot to the emotional Cheri. She is the one  who always believed in the institution of marriage regardless of what the sexual orientation is.

Alex the back bone in this relationship managed to surprise Cheri, and give her the best gift she ever gotten–a marriage. With the help of Cherie’s mother, Alex was able to hide the wedding ring she bough in Chicago for Cherie. She was planning a special vacation to Mexico, where the couple were to be wed for the first time.

With Cheri’s mom approval and blessing, Alex planned this trip to be a surprised wedding celebration. Cherie did not have a clue until the moment Alex got on her knees, and asked for her hand in marriage. At two o’clock in the morning, in their hotel room at the Riviera Maya, Alex finally proposed.  Astonished, surprised and chocked, Cherie couldn’t believe her own eyes. It took her about twenty-seconds to realize what was going on, and finally she said the words “I DO.” Touched by the idea of marrying her beloved woman, her best friend, lover and partner, Cherie couldn’t stop crying for days. She was crying out of happiness, she was crying for the unconditional love she had for the woman she loves. Although the non stoping crying became annoying, Alex never said a word. Theses days taught them the full meaning of love. They have learn to except each other the way they are, they learned what unconditional love means. They finally realized and understood the true meaning of what “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is all about.

Last year on Friday, September 16, 2011, PINK named Cheri Giacomi and her partner Alex Ivelic as the lucky couple to win the title “PINK’s Favorite Couple”  in the “Marry Me PINK” contest for 2011. This contest took place on August 13-14, 2011, during the North Halsted Market Days Street Festival in Chicago. The lucky couple won a two night get-away, to the upscale Belvedere Inn in Saugatuck Michigan,  courtesy of owners Sean and Peter.

As a gay man I believe that we should support our own especially in the courtroom. Gay candidate Brad Trowbridge is running for a judge in Cook County in the 8th judicial sub-circuit and he needs your vote and support. The real reason you should help and vote for Brad is because of who he is as a person, and for what he stands for, his qualifications and experience. I hope you will support Brad and vote for him on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.

Having two jobs one as a social worker, and the second as an attorney Brad is used to working hard. For many years Brad worked with disadvantaged people from all walks of life: minority teen mothers, people with HIV/AIDS, and seniors living in poverty, he made many visits to places like Cabrini-Green and the Lathrop Homes.  "I believe my experience makes me uniquely qualified to sit on the bench.  My life and professional experiences are far broader than just within the legal system."

As an attorney, in the last 11 years Brad focused on helping victims of domestic violence. He also help their children to escape abusive situations.  He spent thousands of hours at the courtroom and gained experience as he represented over 500 victims of domestic violence in obtaining orders of protection, dissolution of marriage, child support and custody of their children.

"I am running for judge because I believe we need more judges who understand the complexities of life and human relationships," said Brad in a recent interview with PINK. He wants to help people because "people are not treated fairly or with respect in the judicial system," and that's why we should vote for Brad who wants to change the bad experiences many people have at the courthouse. 

PINK: Where were you born and when did you come out?

Brad: I was born in central Illinois...Jacksonville, IL....a town of 19,000, and I'm the only child. I came out to my first friend when I was 22. I didn't come out to my family until much later. I was scared to death. I thought my friends and family would disown me. It was the mid-80s, a very different time for gay people. We were also dealing with the AIDS epidemic and the homophobia that was connected to that. 

Why did you choose to go to law school?
Brad: I worked for Horizons Community Services (now Center on Halsted) as an AIDS/HIV counselor from 1988-91. I counseled gay men who had just tested positive. It was a very demanding job because back then there was limited treatment available and many of my clients died within a few months of finding their test results or diagnosis. I was offered a job at Northwestern University's Counseling and Psychological Services office as a counselor for all undergraduate students, but particularly LGBT students. There had been two student suicides on campus, one by a known gay student and one suspected gay student. The school administration felt they needed an "out" gay counselor to send the message to the student population that they viewed gays in a positive manner and that LGBT students had a resource available to them.  Many of my clients were either abused as children or were "coming out" and dealing with the a lot of self-loathing and hostility from their families, churches, and society in general. After almost 5 years, I decided I wanted to be more of an advocate. I wanted to fight for things like equal rights for LGBT people and holding bullies and abusers accountable. That's not the role of a counselor. So I went to law school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was a great law school but not very progressive at the time regarding LGBT issues. I became the president of the gay law student group because no one else would do it. I was in my mid-thirties at that point. I didn't really want to be the "student" president of anything. But I did it because I knew if I didn't, we were going to be even more isolated as a community. I made sure we brought in speakers about same-sex marriage and a representative from a transgender advocacy group speak to the whole law school. We were attacked by a conservative school newspaper for doing it but it educated a lot of future lawyers. 
PINK: Is being gay makes it more difficult for you to win this election as a judge?
Brad: No. The 8th sub-circuit encompasses Andersonville, Boystown, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Gay candidates tend to do better in this sub-circuit than in county-wide races.

PINK: Would it make a difference if a gay person sitting on the bench and how?
Brad: Under the law, no. The law is sexual-orientation neutral for the most part. But I have seen and heard homophobic judges. Most of the time a judge's opinion about gays is often irrelevant, homophobia in family law cases can be devastating.   A few years ago, in a well-publicized case, a Cook County judge denied a lesbian couple the right to adopt and appointed an anti-gay group to represent the minor child. That judge is still on the bench.  

PINK: What are you going to do for the gay voters? 
As a judicial candidate I can't state how I would rule on a case or issue. I can tell you that I have been a gay rights advocate for many years and wrote a book chapter on civil unions and legal issues facing same-sex couples. That should give gay voters some idea about my issues I am personally passionate about. 

PINK: Can you change anything to benefit the gay community and how? 
Brad: As a judge, I can do several things to help the gay community. First, if elected I would be only the fifth openly gay male judge out of 420 in Cook County. We need more visibility and representation. And judges talk to each other. Gay judges can educate their colleagues on issues informally. With my professional and life experience I think I would be a good resource for other judges about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Second, the bulk of my experience is in family law. With the passage of the Civil Unions Act, there are going to be many same-sex couples coming to court to dissolve those relationships at some point (ie, get divorced) and litigate custody of their children. There currently are no openly gay male judges who hear those cases. We have to have judges who will do what is fair and in the best interest of children and not be guided by homophobia or their notions of gender stereotypes in deciding cases. I think having more gay judges in those courtrooms will be very important to our community.  

I hope you will support Brad and vote for him on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. To learn more about Brad visit his website