10 Years Ago: Elton John and David Furnish Make It Legal
Elton John is not only a musical icon, he's also a civil rights trailblazer -- one of the first openly gay pop stars. The British singer-songwriter and pianist admitted his sexual orientation in a 1976 Rolling Stone interview following a successful run of hits throughout the decade. Shortly after the confession, his career in the U.S. began a downturn that many pundits directly attributed to his admission, which was made in a much more conservative era.
Even though John's chart presence began to swing upward again in the early ‘80s, his 1984 wedding to female sound engineer Renate Blauel seemed to be a tacit acknowledgment of the damage that been done to his career. That particular union dissolved after less than four years, by which point John had fully come to terms with his sexuality and publicly admitted to being a gay man.
John met filmmaker David Furnish in 1993, shortly before the star enjoyed one of his greatest successes with The Lion King soundtrack. The couple quickly became a fixture at awards shows and charity events, including John’s annual post-Oscars AIDS fundraiser. As years progressed, they cemented their personal relationship as they became professional partners. To this day, they continue to co-run Rocket Pictures, Furnish serves on the board of John’s charity foundation and the pair collaborated on the documentary Tantrums & Tiaras, which showed an unvarnished -- and not always pleasant -- look at John's daily life.
As the years passed, changes in the public’s attitude toward gay relationships began to change, and laws followed suit. So, on Dec. 21, 2005, John and Furnish celebrated the historic event of same-sex civil partnerships becoming legal in England by entering into one themselves. The private ceremony took place at the town hall in Windsor, where the couple was greeted by a throng of well-wishers. A reception later that evening boasted a guest list that included Bryan Adams, Kid Rock, Will & Grace star Eric McCormack and Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellen.
As proof of the changing times, and the couple’s staying power, John and Furnish were once again first in line after gay marriage became legal in England, officially tying the knot nine years to the day after their civil partnership ceremony. The lavish wedding was shared with the public on Instagram, where John posted photos of the grooms, the opulent surroundings and a series of celebrity attendees that included everyone from Victoria and David Beckham to Ed Sheeran. Perhaps most poignantly, the ceremony prominently featured the couple’s two sons.
John, who has tirelessly campaigned for gay rights despite some questionable decisions over the years (like performing at conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh’s wedding and performing at the Grammy Awards with Eminem, who has come under fire for his anti-gay comments), told the BBC, “Having our civil partnership was an incredible breakthrough for people that have campaigned for a long time -- through the ‘60s and ‘50s, when it was hard to be gay and hard to be open about it, and it was a criminal act. ... So for this legislation to come through is joyous, and we should celebrate it.” And what a celebration it was.
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