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Arts and Entertainment

How A Lover's Untimely Death Created An LGBT Activist In Documentary 'Bridegroom'

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"I wanted to show people what happens when you don’t get access to the same rights," Shane Bitney Crone told LAist.

"It Could Happen To You" was Crone's moving YouTube video tribute to his late partner, Tom Bridegroom. It went viral spreading a resonating message about marriage equality, and has amassed over 4.2 million views since it dropped in May 2012. It's since been expanded into a documentary, Bridegroom, and premieres in Los Angeles today. It's also airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network on Oct. 27.

Bridegroom accidentally fell over a Los Angeles rooftop and plummeted to his death in 2011, a bitter end to his happy six-year relationship with Crone. They had traveled the world together, started a business, and would have been married had gay marriage rights been in effect at that point. Crone struggled to visit Bridegroom in the hospital since he wasn't legally considered family, and was eventually shut out of the funeral by Bridegroom's parents, who did not accept their son's homosexuality.

Crone's YouTube video documented their life together and the devastating effects the aftermath of the death had over him. Director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (of Designing Women fame) wanted to spread Crone's message in the documentary with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $384,000.

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"Most of my life I was ashamed of being gay and I never really stood up for myself, and making a YouTube video and posting it was a huge step for me," Crone said.

Bridegroom has made the rounds on the festival circuit, including the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where former President Bill Clinton introduced the film and it took home the coveted Audience Award. His message has become one of strength for other people struggling with being gay. "I’ve heard from teenagers from all over the world that the story gave them hope and prevented them from taking their own life," he said.

In many ways, Crone is now a LGBT activist. The heartbreaking responses where people have told him to kill himself or that he should be murdered doesn't bother him as much anymore because the overwhelming support from people has helped him to focus on the positives. He recounts that straight men have told him they had opposed gay marriage for a long time until they saw his film, which helped them understand his love with Bridegroom.

When the divisive Proposition 8 was overturned and gay marriage became legal in California in June, Crone said he was in Washington, D.C. standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, a day he describes as "bittersweet."

"I hope that this film helps parents understand their children more and to love their children unconditionally," Crone said, "and I hope it helps people who are struggling with their identity to embrace who they are and love who they are."