Tribeca: President Clinton Introduces Marriage Equality Doc 'Bridegroom'

Bill Clinton Portrait - P 2013
Charles Ommanney/Contour by Getty Images

Bill Clinton Portrait - P 2013

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's film tells the moving story of a young Los Angeles gay couple, whose relationship wasn't recognized when one of them died accidentally.

President Bill Clinton has given his endorsement to the new documentary Bridegroom, which has its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday night.

While former presidents don’t often show up to stump for indie films – this one was financed by a successful Kickstarter campaign – Clinton’s presence could be explained, in part, by the fact that he is a longtime friend of the film’s director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who with her husband, Harry Thomason, created the campaign film The Man From Hope, which was shown at the 1992 Democratic Convention, where Clinton was nominated for president.

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But he also was on hand to underscore the film’s message: Bridegroom tells the story of a young gay couple, Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, living together in Los Angeles, who had committed their lives to each other. But when Bridegroom died in a freak accident, Crone found himself without any of a spouse’s rights and was banned from attending his partner’s funeral by a family that refused to publicly acknowledge that their son had been gay.

Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages in 1996, but he has now become a public supporter of same-sex marriage, urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law. Last week at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, he was presented an Advocate for Change award.

“This is really, on one level, a wonderful, sad, heartbreaking yet exhilarating and life-affirming story,” Clinton said as he introduced Bloodworth-Thomason’s film at Tribeca. “And on another level, it’s a story about our nation’s struggle to make one more step in forming a more perfect union, for which marriage is both the symbol and substance.”

The film grew out of an emotion-packed YouTube video, titled It Could Happen To You that Shane posted on May 7, the anniversary of his partner’s death. Within a week, it went viral, attracting more than two million views. Among those who took notice was Bloodworth-Thomason, who told THR, “The prejudice and bigotry that Shane and Tom experienced was not unlike what I witnessed in 1986 when my mother died of transfused AIDS.”

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A Kickstarter campaign with a target of $300,000 was launched to support the project, and it quickly attracted 6,508 pledges, totaling $384,375. Working with Cronin, who served as producer, Bloodworth-Thomason constructed the story of the couple’s relationship with the use of the extensive videos they had shot together as well as interviews with friends and Crone’s supportive family. (Bridegroom’s family did not respond to requests that they participate.)

The film tells of how the two young men – both grew up in conservative environments, Crone in Kalispell, Mont., and Bridegroom in Knox, Ind. – met in Los Angeles and built a life together over the course of six years. That ended in 2011 when Bridegroom, while taking photos of a friend, accidentally fell off the roof of a four-story apartment building. Once his family claimed his body, they cut off relations with Crone, even threatening him with harm if he tried to attend his partner’s funeral.

“I will forever be grateful to all of you for your love and support of me, my story and this film,” Cronin posted on his Facebook page after the movie’s premiere. “I am also incredibly thankful to President Bill Clinton for introducing Bridegroom tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival and for using his voice to fight for marriage equality.”