When SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality nationwide on June 26, Chris Hill, director of sales and marketing at Millenium Hilton, had to Hilton honor a promise: marry his longtime partner, Stephen, now that all 50 states recognized their love. Chris thought it only fitting to ask Hilton, his workplace for the past five years, to help make the proposal not only unforgettable, but historic. With the support of Hilton’s marketing team, Chris decided to propose to Stephen during the NYC Pride March on June 28 while celebrating on Hilton’s float for the entire crowd to witness.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Chris to learn the story firsthand, from when he first met Stephen all the way up to their epic engagement 14 years later.

How did you two meet?

When I moved to Jacksonville, Florida in October of 2001, I knew no one. Stephen, who was in college, was completing research online for a class and received a pop-up advertisement for Love @ AOL. After seeing the pop-up three times, he decided to conduct a search—it was a sign. Guess who came up at the top of the list? Me!

Go internetthat worked out! So what happened next?

We ended up going out on a date and continued seeing each other for about two years, off and on. Eventually, around Valentine’s Day, I decided to send him a lovely little message in a bottle. It was so silly. It said something along the lines of: “Throughout all my years, I’ve always searched for that person to ask to be my Valentine, and I’ve never had that opportunity until today. Will you be my Valentine?”

Thats so sweet.

Yes, that’s what sealed it.


Note and Pic 2004

I know you made a promise to yourself that you wouldnt get engaged until same-sex marriage was legal in every state. Did you think it would happen one day or were you just trying to postpone the next step?

It was a little bit of both. I knew that it would eventually happen, but I wanted to make sure that, if we did get married, we’d be recognized wherever we lived. When same-sex marriage finally became legal in all 50 states, I think that was the point where he was probably thinking, “I’m not bringing this up. Let’s see if he really wants to marry me or not.”

The test!

Exactly.

And so then you started planning this crazy float proposal

Yes. I was reading all the news updates after SCOTUS, and then I thought: Let’s do it! We’re going to be at the march on Sunday. How great would it be to do it during the march and possibly on the float? I sent an email to Hilton’s marketing team to see if it was possible. They embraced the idea.

So where exactly did you end up proposing?

In front of Stonewall. It was awesome. I was prepared, had my speech in my mind, and was ready to go. There were swarms of people, and I was thinking about what I had to do, and then they handed me the mic. I immediately forgot half of what I wanted to say! I said something like, “I’ve been with this man 14 years. He’s the love of my life. We’ve lost weight together. We’ve gained weight together. His mother loves me. I’m a slob, and he’s a great cook!” It might not have been the rehearsed speech, but it was what came out at that moment!

What was his response?

He actually couldn’t speak. I got down on one knee and presented the ring, and, as I did that, he raised his hand over his face and surprisingly asked, “What are you doing?” When I asked him to marry me, instead of being able to say yes, he just gave me a nod. He was speechless. But there are certainly pictures of the ugly cries that came afterwards.


proposal

Wow, what a memory that is going to be. And it is extra moving that you work for a company that just hopped on this idea.

That’s the big part for me. To know that Hilton supports me and that I can come to work everyday and be proud of who I am and not worry about being judged for it, brings me the most pride.