In 1996, C.J. Phillips met Charlie Rainwater and fell in love, as young self-identified “doggy dudes” do. Now, they’d like to have a polite, civil conversation—about their right to love each other, and anything else that’s vexing you. Which is why they parked a lovely website on the domain jebbushforpresident.com.
Now that Jeb is an official presidential candidate, plenty more people are likely to navigate over to that domain, where they’ll find this message from C.J. and Charlie:
Let’s have a Chat, Share Viewpoints, and Learn from Each Other
So many times we find ourselves in situations where we can’t relate to each other, don’t understand each other, or feel like there’s nobody who wants to listen to our point of view. Let’s change that...
[H]ow can we help our friends, family, and neighbors have the discussions we all need to have so we can learn from each other and break down some of the tension, drama, and sometimes outright ignorance of our fellow man?
Besides links to their lively social media accounts, the site includes a blog where both gents weigh in, sometimes heftily, on social acceptance of gays and lesbians. There is also a section where they post photos of their “tribe”—readers and supporters who submit their own stories and images of love. And, as well, there is a section titled “About The Bear Thing.” What there is not, is an endorsement of Jeb Bush.
I wonder if @HillaryClinton wants a couple of Bears for running mates?April 13, 2015
In the video above, recorded as part of a pro-LGBT series sponsored by Kenneth Cole, the couple explains their motivations, including C.J.’s Clinton-era discharge from a decade-long Air Force career under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We tracked down C.J. and Charlie on email seeking a little more detail, and they were kind enough to answer a few questions. Here’s the conversation, with light editing for style and clarity; all ellipses and smiley faces are the authors’:
Gawker: Tell us about yourselves.
C & C: We’re just a couple of average human beings. 😊 We have day jobs as engineers, love our home, love our dogs, and love each other... just like so many other couples. C.J. is originally from Iowa and Charlie is from Tennessee. Charlie is a news junkie, while C.J. prefers blissful ignorance and the joys of a library book.
Gawker: When did you get the idea to park your conversation at that particular domain?
C & C: When President Obama was re-elected, there was an internet meme making the rounds, joking about 2016 being Jeb vs. Chelsea, hahahaha... and at the same time there were some pretty anti-LGBT family laws being passed in Texas, and on a whim we wondered if we could use the name of someone with such a bad record for LGBTQ issues as a platform to share stories. Five minutes later, we owned the domain. 😊
Gawker: What’s the most memorable response you’ve gotten from the website?
C & C: We received an email from a grandmother who had stumbled onto the site, who’d never met an openly gay couple. She was surprised at how normal we seemed! That’s exactly our goal for this site...
Gawker: Have you heard from the Bush campaign, or any Jeb supporters?
C & C: We haven’t heard from the campaign, but we’ve had several offers to help Jeb with his campaign, from offering consulting for a small fee to solving the hurricane issues, also for a small fee. We replied to the senders with the email for Jeb’s super PAC. 😊
Gawker: I understand you two are getting married soon.
C & C: We’re going to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first date in December of 2016, and we’re considering then as a marriage date. Just being able to provide each other the legal protections that come with a marriage license is one part of it... but another is recognizing that our relationship is just as valid as everyone else’s!
Gawker: What do you hope comes out of this site?
C & C: We hope people get a chance to discover that we, LGBTQ folks, are not the deviants that so many of the talking heads like to portray us as... we have the same hopes, dreams, and desires as everyone else.
Gawker: What will you do with the site when the election’s over?