The Marriage Equality USA family lost a wonderful friend and powerful advocate this week in long-time member and leader Elmer Lokkins. Elmer and his husband Gustavo (Gus) Archilla became for many symbols for our organization’s marriage equality movement in New York State. They were together for over six decades before Gus’s death in 2012.
Elmer was a decorated Army veteran of World War II, earning multiple honors and acclamation before being honorably discharged and moving to New York City. There, in 1945, he met the love of his life and worked at the Graduate Center of The City University of New York.
As the fight for the freedom to marry grew, friends and advocates at Marriage Equality New York (MENY) convinced them to become a face for our movement in New York. They began to do interviews and make appearances. They were the leaders of the MENY Pride contingent in 2007 – riding in a rented pedicab at the head of the march. The image of them together that day was wonderful, especially watching them lead the march with a rainbow umbrella covering them from the Sun.
In 2010, they moved to Marco Island, Florida, to be close to their niece and to enjoy the warm weather. Gus died in November of 2012 and Elmer spent the last several months being cared for by his niece and several caring home health aides. Even though he was suffering from a rare disease with no cure, he was always smiling, laughing, and treating friends and strangers kindly.
All of us at MEUSA (and formerly MENY) owe Elmer and Gus a tremendous debt in bringing our movement to where it is today.