Jeffrey Robinson and Juan Bustamante

Recorded February 15, 2020 Archived February 15, 2020 31:51 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019655


Jeffrey Robinson (58) and his husband Juan Bustamante (48) talk about how their friends came together to help them plan their pagan wedding over 25 years ago and how having a legal document as proof of marriage was not the defining factor for them to know they were married before gay marriage was legal.

Subject Log / Time Code

JB talks about how he and JR met over 25 years ago through a youth group for gay folks.
JR talks about struggling to make their wedding happen but how it came together beautifully.
JR talks about writing their own vows and how their whole friend community came together to make their wedding happen.
JB talks about the legal aspects of marriage that they couldn't or could get, like domestic partnership.
JR and JB describe getting legally married at the county clerk's office in Fresno, but how that was just paperwork.


  • Jeffrey Robinson
  • Juan Bustamante

Recording Location



Partnership Type



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00:02 Hi, my name is Jeffrey Robinson. I am 58 years old. That's a Saturday, February 15th 2020 and we are in Fresno, California. I'm going to be interviewing and talking with my husband Juan Bustamante.

00:17 Hi, my name is Juan Bustamante. I'm 48 years old Saturday, February 15th, 2020. I'm located in Fresno, California and I will be interviewing interviewing with my husband Jeffrey Robinson. So I thought what a great idea would be for us to talk about how we met and about our wedding 25 years ago. Okay, so do you want to tell us how we met? Well, I think I was I was still living in Kerman and my friend. Oh my gosh. I can't remember his name on top of my head. Just told him I call him but Larry Larry, thank you. We found a youth group against youth group, and we decided that we were going to go in a tent.

01:14 And so that was the first time I think that we met was actually actually at your apartment was held at my apartment in the very beginning and you were 18. If I'm not mistaken just out of high school and you guys came over and you were so charming and your smile was amazing and I was very much attracted to you at the moment. I met you but I know that we did not do anything or pursue each other for two and a half years, correct? Yeah.

01:47 So after that, sorry, so I have two that I know that I had things are just happened to you scoop. It just happened. Everything was happening. So about two and a half years after that. I want to sit there and say that I think I was living I was renting an apartment. I had just recently come out to my parents and I didn't want to go back back to the house. So they want to go back to live tonight with my parents. So I think what you because of that dude offered me to stay in your apartment. I think the I think the term was two weeks and that was it you had two weeks if you're finishing up your finals for your Sylvester and then we were going to find something else. So in other words we would let you stay in Fresno with me and you can finish up school and then you would move on with one of your other friends and stuff.

02:45 So I think what happened after that was I just trying to stay out of sight out of your way with shalt about 10 10:30 at night.

03:01 I'm not sure.

03:03 Well, we were kind of avoiding each other if there was an attraction between the two of us and had been probably since the first day I met you and I know that I didn't want to pursue a relationship with you, but I was very attracted to you. So I had a tendency to be mean to you and I remember when we went to Santa Cruz and I just kept wanting to lean over and kiss you and I just never did it. And so then that was probably about around the year after we had first met.

03:39 Oh, yeah, okay.

03:42 So what do you think it all worked out? So you stayed over I cooked you dinner. You didn't come home for the dinner. We went to Christmas Tree Lane an African over the Christmas Tree Lane with the rest of the group. We came back to my apartment you and I and then I proceeded to show you every picture album I've ever accumulated. Yes. I remember that you're bored out of your mind. I was bored out of my mind.

04:09 So we got to play cat and mouse with all that and then you went off to go to the living room to crash out on the couch and I went to my bed.

04:18 Yes, and then I ate I remember it was extremely cold cuz your apartment all the windows were always open them be nice to me. I couldn't figure out why the apartment was always so cold that the polar bear but the living room was the only place where there was the heater was walking over there and

04:39 I remember the question, which was are you warm enough out there. I'm like, yeah cuz well there's other places that are warmer. I couldn't figure out where that was. I was very naive and in. My guess. Neither one of us had to get a game back in that day.

04:58 So nothing ever happened to other than I think it was the next morning and I was watching cartoons on the other end of the couch and then start tickling feet and then he jumped me and give you a nice little kiss ya a little bit more than that. So the 5th of are all connected and everything and remember us watching TV and it was around Valentine's Day and all the Valentine's Day commercials are coming on and I said, oh I've always wanted to have a big wedding.

05:35 And then you did what I got down on one knee and asked you to marry me on February 14th the following year. So we got married a year later and that was 25 years ago and there really wasn't any concept for gay folks to have marriages or hand bindings and some semi religious ceremonies within churches that were progressives effort for most gay and lesbian people that you just kind of got together. You were lovers her roommates or whatever. That was domestic partners.

06:09 But I know we started planning this whole thing and we really were like doing it from scratch. There was nothing for same-sex couples. You know, I'm just discovering what we could find what we could convert while we can make the timer doing hand making a hundred and fifty wedding invitations to find all the materials for that. And we said that we made each individual card Ozark craft to your side of us and then you calligraphy every envelope. Yes, it was intense.

06:51 And I also remember that.

06:55 It was a it was a heart on the front and it was a gold foiled heart and we have to find the right type of soil paper that would crank up just right and then it was a and then we had to find the little Moon that came off of that all heart and that took forever forever and a day to figure out which one of those was going to be done that way and then you did the inside. Remember you did the announcement if I remember correctly and I did I did all that and then I calligraphy to all of them and I think there was a

07:29 Moon see all done son a black Wax Seal was so yes Persnickety games that we are we had to do it everything just a certain way and that started us on the process. I think one of the most interesting things for me about that was going to Macy's and trying to do a groom's registry of suppose of a bridal registry and just really being so disrespected by the employer that we walked away frustrated and then we just had no idea what we're going to do that we wanted to kind of what we thought was going because it's traditional wedding thing. And so talking to two of our friends that explain to me. What happened was at Macy's will do your your registry for you.

08:20 And our friends our names were George and Donovan and they basically became, you know, contact George and Donovan and people really thought they were contacting an actual company the doors and Donovan company that was handling our Grooms registry our wedding registry and I can remember it was a message on their machine and I can't remember exactly what they said. But remember it sounded really really interesting really fun.

08:46 So that was just one of the first things we had to do to try to find a way to make this happen for the two of us looking for a venue. We finally settled on I wish I had friends Lil Raymond lives that had a beautiful backyard house only offers their house and yard, and then we got The Decorator girls from the god shocks. You did all the windows play some decorations came and cranked out the inside and the outside of the house for us and our Celestial theme. Our colors are gold silver and purple so my color for gold years were silver and then purple was the connecting color. So those type of things we did trying to find a top topper for the cake.

09:32 F remember I thought we finally ordered out of a catalogue. We finally located at gay company that had something that really would represent a white dude and a brown dude and it looked okay trying to find a greeting book a guest book. That wasn't me that Tuesday so we couldn't find the guest book that we wanted. They were all a little too freely. So we went out and track down organic natural paper and then pain that was encased in like a branch and then some very magical beads. There's a big old Amber be to close the book together.

10:24 So that was just that it was an interesting thing. We had how many people were in our wedding? I had three and you have three. I think I know we had before people that called the quarters, correct. So we had I had two people that called two of the quadrants for me and you had to for you.

10:42 And rot

10:48 Robbie was going to be officiate correct, but he passed away a few months before we got married. So we had to go find another friend who was a pagan priest that specially crafted are very weird little ceremony because we seem to want to do it all we gave each other rings and we did the hand binding and we did the candlelight. Yes, and so trying to find something that was some way male-oriented on the candles. We found two rod iron Candlestick silver dancing dudes each holding candles.

11:27 And we ended up breaking the one in the middle of them joining them. It was two candles going into one. Yeah. Yeah. I remember that. We still have them believe it or not, but it was just such a an issue of finding all the stuff and getting him on there. I want to say we had a really big wedding 60 people showed up and so is very big for us yet and it was a Sunday night.

11:53 This Sunday. I was the Sunday night cuz Monday we went to Monday. We went and had our little honeymoon in San Francisco for the one day.

12:02 What was the interesting thing about the wedding for you as far as the attendees that came?

12:09 Interesting part of the money. I mean for me it was just that of course it was I never once thought I'd be getting married. So just just the entire wedding and of itself and then everything that we had to go through to to get to that point. I mean if I remember correctly there was I think I worked at okay produce and I couldn't think of a way that I could ask. Okay produce. Can I have the day off and I worked on Saturdays and Sundays for them, you know, cuz if I said I was going to get married and they would have questions who you going to get married to and stuff like that. And I know that at least at that time I was in his out as I am now and so I remember working that day and friends are friends of ours putting together the the food and and and decorating everything and and we and then just getting off just barely in time to like make the wedding.

13:09 Type situation come home get dressed and show up type of situation. So at least we weren't in each other's hair that day. Yeah, I don't I don't know if I didn't if I didn't work that day that it would have to be here talking about our wedding. Mary had a very different. I know that my my mom my little brother. My little sister were there the rest of my family was not their excuse me. You keep reminding me. I don't remember your body. I was there and the only way that I can recall that issues actually in some of the pictures and so I fight I found that interesting cuz I could not recall that one portion of it. But but yeah, we made our gardeners, I think now We Found Love somewhere, I don't think we made those. I thought we made them.

14:09 Play We like crocheted some gardeners or so some guy that we found some gardeners but we put we put our moon on there and I think we put a son on there until week. We customize customize our friends house. Yes, but but yeah, so it was it was it was a very I thought we created the ceremony for ourselves. I do remember that your side cried and my side couldn't understand why you guys are crying. But but yeah, so we're the ones that fell apart by Butch lesbians in my gay boys. Is that fell apart? Were you all like you're looking down on us?

14:48 So yeah, that was that was a hard thing. We did our own vows and what I did is I decided just to speak from the heart after the after writing everything out and stuff and he got a little emotionally overwhelming when I talked about how much love I had for you. So that was a little different but it wasn't all of her friends. It really was a village to put that thing on so delicate coming and doing all the decorations was Lorraine providing the house. Our friends did all the photography and everybody provided the pictures all of our friends myself did all the cooking's of there was a big spread. So there was just one thing after another but the thing that really sticks out to me is that her friends are so different from each other.

15:38 We have such an Eclectic group that wherever we went for the wedding. If we were in the bedroom getting ready it seem like the whole wedding party want to be there in there with us. And then we would go to the living with the reading party would follow us there when we we go outside to the backyard the wedding party. So I felt like the whole night because people were just not connected to anyone but me and you they just followed us everywhere. We went a little heard if I was kind of interesting cuz yeah, cuz everybody they just didn't they just didn't melt together or melt together. We do. We have some very eclectic friends even still to this day. I think we we we like we like and they may not like each other and it is what it is and I think back about our wedding I was saying about how magical

16:28 It was in the fact that the priest from our coven came and put this all together for us, but then also are pagan friends that each came and casted the circle each one two from are quadrants. Where are to remember them? Remember yours mine was a stag for longevity and the hummingbird for because the beats the wings beat in a figure-eight for eternity, and I'm going to tell you I'm a really bad husband cuz I don't remember what mine were but I do know that they were really related to our totems and both of those were in my totem. I don't know. I'm trying member if yours was the dragonfly and maybe the otter

17:16 Could have been

17:18 Rock Sugar nevermind I had to have a friend that actually gave us a gift of a drum and then another friend painted are all of our eight totems on each side of the drums. So I'm choked on that was really kind of kind of cool and very different and very interesting and yes, I did break down and cry and everybody's looking at me. Why am I crying? So when I started crying my Butch lesbian friend started to cry so but it was a it was a really magical X the whole thing for search finish including I don't really forget about this but

17:58 We were both going to National at the time and one of my classmates was actually an honest-to-god Samoan princess. I remember and who was Witchy Poo in her way and she gone and collected Sage up in the Foothills and then came back and smudge the whole venue and all everybody in the party before they came in. So it was just camping sites. But Yeah Yeahs right harvested it and did her thing and that and we even have Robbie with us, even though he wasn't able to officiate he we brought his bong is mr. Wizard bong and it was actually on the altar with everything else and some of the pictures really kind of show a spirit around.

18:47 Roundish. I remember that I'm aware that it was it was a white kind of a smoke if I remember correctly from over those pictures and it was just everything was fine. All the pictures were coming out great. And then there was one or two maybe a little bit more that came out a little bit different and that would have been when they were doing I think maybe the handfasting so I know he was there. So it was it was Monumental our friends loved it and we had way more people that wanted to come then we could actually accommodate and everybody kind of got a little butthurt that they didn't get to come but a small venue or we can have that many people following us around either.

19:32 So with our wedding and stuff, so that was a wedding that was just for us and our friends and family. It really had no standing legally or anyting else. I never thought yeah, that was that was our ceremony for us and that's you know, I think at that time that's when I start referring to you as my husband knew we had a big debate about whether a husband or wife or what the who is going to be what and if we're going to hyphenate our names and all that. And and whose name was going to go first to remember unit was I going to change my name to Robertson. Are we going to change your name Bustamante? And if we were going to hyphenate our names whose name was going to come first and all different different new territory that I never had even conceived of of having a debate over discussion with something with somebody and I think in the end what we decided to try we tried

20:28 For you you would be Juan Bustamante - Robinson and I was Jeffrey Robinson - Bustamante and then I got to be thirty some odd letters for her name got to be too much. So that didn't last very long at all. We just went back to what's legally on our birth certificates and social security cards on my hat.

20:50 So yeah, so I know we never

20:53 I don't think I ever went and really ever introduce myself is Juan Bustamante Robinson. But yeah, it just didn't flow for us now because we ended up getting to be able to be registered domestic Partners in the state of California.

21:10 And we had to go to the whole process with a notary public and filing with the secretary of state and doing all those type of things and then every year they would add a new rights and benefits responsibilities. And each time. They added something new or different or made a tweet to it. We were contacted see if we still wanted to stay as domestic Partners if we wanted to end our relationship.

21:39 Yeah, I remember I remember doing all that paperwork. And I also remember was it just a little oddly was like, oh, wow. Okay. Now this is kind of getting

21:47 This is kind of getting real not that I don't think their wedding wasn't real but it's like, okay. So now legally we have since we're starting to have some standing, you know, and you know kind of realize what that meant and what that did for us, but I still have to remember so I can still didn't give us

22:06 Everything that you would if you were straightened getting married, so that was also another bone of contention on that but I think towards the very end. They had really passed everything except for anything to do with filing federal joint tax returns and Social Security benefits, California had everything with the exception of those two things.

22:28 But then we got married legally with about 250 other couples here in Fresno on the very first day. It was legal after the California Supreme Court overturn prop 22 and I remember even before that there was over Cisco is allowing people to get married and we were at the coast have been around Thanksgiving what we serve reading about that sooner than newspaper. And I remember that we were sitting there having a conversation what to do. Do you want to go do it? Do you want to go?

23:03 We were like at Pismo area and so it's like that would have meant I don't know how long of a drive that would have meant to get up there. We had talked about trying to there's a train around Pismo you're taking the train up there. But I think by the time we made the decision they had to put a stop now, they started turning away. They had so many people lined up imatter after bicycle Lanes food advisor people this even if you came up now you wouldn't be able to be able to get in the other was lines. I remember there was a huge line of people waiting for hours just to even get to the front steps to me try to apply for a thing for marriage license or whatever. So I think about all the times that we were working in our Act of a circle and doing our advocacy work and the meat in the middle protest we did here after

23:58 Prop 22 past and remember when they finally said okay on this day, they're going to open it up and that's when we went in that day because there's going to be something I want to go and do it before they close it down. They put a stay right because of the same thing that happened in San Francisco to ride and if they put a stay on that as well. So yeah, so I remember that that was the first day I'm ever going back into working and saying the same thing, you know, it's like hey, I need I need some time off today. And you know, what else is like, I'm going to go get married.

24:32 You know, so that was that's a big deal for me. It was because I was extremely out and you were not know it was your correct. I was not a guy was not out so over the course of our 25 years of marriage you become more and more open about who you are and

24:51 Which is I think being married to a gay activist of a very difficult place to be if if you're not out yourself. And so I remember those struggles and I remember now it's you know now at work, you know, I have regular normal conversation and people with my husband clothes right off and said that it does and you know, there's still that when you're meeting someone new and the doesn't know you and you talk about your husband and just kind of gauging their reaction, but very different than where I think we came from to where I am now or where we are now to be able to do that and then people recognize this as work wise, you know, cuz we work for the same thing Department, you know for a while.

25:43 I thought it was kind of funny when we come for us our wedding 25 years ago at Lowe's and Ryan's house is always just been our our our wedding in our marriage, right and everything else is always been these little after thoughts. And so here we show up at the county clerk's office on the first day and we didn't think there's going to be a big the last couple that actually sat and waited and I waited in line and I remember how shocked I was that everybody was dressed up and you and I are just like t-shirts and shorts and flip-flops and a very casual very relaxed. It was just filling out paperwork for us both feel the same way that we got married, you know, the fact that it wasn't legally recognized made no difference to us today that we made our commitment.

26:41 So long ago 25 years prior to that was was the day that we got married whether it was legal or not. That was the day that I made a commitment to you. And this this was just another piece of paperwork that we had to get out of the way, but I remember that it was it was very interesting and

27:01 We didn't know anything about about what to do. I think there was a fee. I don't know if we were looking for like having to pick over the free. Do you have cash? I don't have cash if they take cash. Do they take a check or credit card take to be in the line that day that the father is it all we know is that we wanted to get married and that's where we were we were just going to finalize it before they closed it out and you couldn't and I really thought oh my god when they came up the paperwork said you need to have a witness.

27:29 Plymouth what do we need to have a with everybody and everybody just the funniest stuff the security officer crying at our wedding cuz I worked with him I knew him and so he even came out because it is it okay if if I'm in there with you. Yeah, it's fine to me. They found it to be a bigger deal than that. I did. I mean it was a Monumental moment and I get that and I and I and I appreciate that but at the same time it was for me. It was that's just my name on a piece of paper. I married this battle long time ago. So so if it was just like you said it was just finalized ation or an ending of the wrapping up of what we had started so long ago and then the efficient

28:29 Do you know a Gerald Thurston? I'm like I don't think I do why because he is so excited. He's going to get to marry you by Kool who are Mariah s Mary Ave. And he cried she cried to everybody was crying except us. Yeah, but we were getting married and I was just like that's not the magical day that my Monumental de politically but it wasn't D-Day emotionally for us, but that's the way it is and we didn't date.

29:14 Give me there was no dating or courtship really with us. No.

29:21 We go to movie. We just played this cat-and-mouse game for like two and a half years.

29:30 Yeah, and then our friends were constantly shoving each of us in the others face and putting us in each other's path and encouraging a relationship so very different but for me forever and a day

29:49 You know, that's just the thing I think about every time I see you even when I want to strangle you for ever going to take.

29:56 So I'm so happy that you you got down on your knees in marriage. And then I think it's a good thing. I probably suggest.

30:04 Ogn if I had said no, I don't know.

30:09 I don't even think that was ever really an option or anyting.

30:12 No, I got I don't know. I don't know if I hate you if what I would have done if you ever said no.

30:18 So

30:20 Now we have December 5th as we got together the day we got together and then we had the 4th was the day of the long pictures yet the day of the long history. Well now, you know everything there is to know about me and then of course on the 14th is our actual anniversary, so February 14th to and we really don't do much with any of the other ones that fall in between those of legalized marriage when you're the one always reminds me about June. I was forgetting I feel bad.

30:50 And that's why you should you should.

30:53 I'm really glad we were able to come in kind of tell her story.

30:58 And I remember like you said, I think we only had one day. We took the next day off for our anniversary. That was our only day off.

31:08 I didn't take any extra additional time and I think we went to San Francisco.

31:17 And we spent the day we spent the day at San Francisco. I think that's we would have.

31:28 So I'm so glad that you agreed to do this with me. It sounds like sound like fun.