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Gay Couple Renews Vows At Parkville Comic Shop

Collectors Corner played host to a longtime customer and his husband Wednesday afternoon for a vow renewal ceremony in celebration of a new issue of the Astonishing X-Men, which features a gay couple getting married.

In celebration of the release of Astonishing X-Men #51 where Canadian mutant superhero Northstar marries his boyfriend, Kyle, publisher Marvel Comic encouraged retailers to do something special.

Parkville's own was happy to oblige. On Wednesday afternoon, customer and Parkville native Mikal McCruden and his husband Chris Gardener renewed their wedding vows in a short ceremony.

McCruden, 40, and Gardener, 50, were legally wed two years ago in May in a ceremony in Washington D.C. McCruden, a longtime comics fan, saw Wednesday's new issue as an opportunity.

"It's that X-Men message—it has a lot of lessons of equality, you feel a lot of empathy for mutants, they live in a world where people hate and fear them just for who they are," McCruden explained.

"I think when life gives you opportunities to stand up for something you think is important you have to take them," McCruden said. "Meeting and marrying Chris was kind of a dream for me—dreams are important things, they uplift us; it's especially important when those dreams involve dignity, honor and equality for everyone."

"We feel strongly enough to make a stand, say here we are. Plus it’s the comic book wedding I always wanted," he said.

McCruden, who was born and raised in Parkville and graduated from , met Gardener, a New Jersey native, the same way most people meet.

"It was a pretty standard courtship," Gardener said. "We met in a nightclub and fell in love."

"We met and then he sort of tracked me down through some friends. After that it was just spending a lot of time together," McCruden said.

Soon after, they moved into a Mount Vernon apartment together.

"Pre same-sex marriage, if you ask your lover to move in with you it’s kind of like asking them to marry you," Gardener said. "We had actually made plans to go to Canada to get married, but then D.C. became available."

"When it happened in DC we were like wow, it’s kismet," McCruden said.

The pair wed on May 29, 2010.

Though the couple could have their union recognized under current Maryland law, they said they've chosen not to until same-sex marriage becomes legal in the state. The issue is headed to a referendum on the November ballot, and McCruden said that he has faith the legislation, passed during this year's general assembly, will hold.

"I have a lot of faith in Marylanders. This is one of those kinds of states where I think ,maybe—I have faith that the people of this state are evolved enough and that marriage equality has moved on enough—this might be the first time where the referendum will go our way," McCruden said.

The ceremony in Parkville, which McCruden described as "part grand romantic gesture ... part political statement", mirrors other events around the country at Manhattan's Midtown Comics, Maximum Comics in Las Vegas and Henderson, NV, as reported by pop culture news site Bleeding Cool.

With other ceremonies taking place in the limelight, you might be asking how tiny Parkville got involved. For the answer you needn't look any further than Marvel Comics senior vice president of sales, David Gabriel.

"This is really what Marvel Comics does best, which is capture the zeitgeist of the times," Gabriel said, speaking on his own behalf, in a phone interview with Patch. "The story has been planned for about a year, and we hit it at the right time."

Gabriel explained that the Northstar character has been "out" for at least 20 years and that his marriage to his boyfriend came at a great moment.

"It's important because it’s gay pride month, [the issue] represents a milestone in the way that Americans are thinking right now," Gabriel said. "That's what we saw this morning—it was the mainstream press, they're certainly very interested in this as a human interest and civil liberties story and really that’s what the X-Men are all about. Perfect analogy, perfect book to do it in."

"When I learned that Maximum [Comics] was doing something [to commemorate the issue] I wanted to open it up to any retailer."

He said that Marvel often encourages retailers to hold promotional events for the launch of milestone issues.

"The word went out sort of nationwide that things were going to be going on.  I just happen to have a personal relationship with Randy for a number of years and knew he was one of the perfect stores," Gabriel said.

Randy is, of course, Collectors Corner owner Randy Myers.

"I'd love to take credit for [the event in Parkville] but Randy and Mikal [McCruden] should really get it," Gabriel said.

Myers and McCruden have had a business relationship for years—Collectors Corner is where McCruden gets his monthly comics fix. Myers acknowledged that he was "taking a risk" of possibility alienating some customers by holding the event.

"When they got married two years ago, I was invited and I'm just his comics shop owner," Myers said. "I'm happy for them and I'm happy we did it."

Shop employee David Crispino agreed.

"These are real social issues that need to be overcome so that we can get on to bigger and better things. I would like to think that your average comic fan is accepting of new story lines and sometimes allegories and metaphors of real events. Hopefully it gets people thinking in a positive way," he wrote in an email.

Lexa Newman June 20, 2012 at 10:11 PM
How incredible is this? First of all, it validates my 18-year old son's thoughts that he isn't too old for comic books :) But it is a wonderful thing to have happen, right here in Parkville. Makes me want to go down there and buy this week's comics for my kid. . . well, maybe not so much, but almost! Well done Collector's Corner!
Randy Myers June 20, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Excellent article Nick. Thankyou!
Brenda Cotsaris June 20, 2012 at 10:26 PM
I happened to be there just as the wedding started with my 17 year old son who needed his comics. What a treat for us to have witnessed this, as we are social advocates for marriage equality. An awesome surprise for us.
Arlow June 21, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Glad I wasn't in the mood to stop in to pick up some comic books that day.
Gregg Roberts June 21, 2012 at 09:09 AM
Extremely fitting location for this ceremony. Actually, I don't mean to be rude but perhaps feel entitled to share my inner opinion since these gentlemen and the comic shop had no problem conducting this ceremony with the store open where children come and go. Gay marriage is not legal in Maryland. It is scheduled to become legal on January 1st subject to a referendum. I therefore still have a right to expect that my children will not unwittingly find them at a gay wedding ceremony when they go to buy a comic book. Even if two men love each other and are happy, from a religious standpoint it is not a sacred union. Opression of a sex drive is OK. That's why I have relations with one woman instead of a dozen..even though I am supressing my natural desires. I don't want my kids reading about gay Canadians getting married in comic books. You want the right to be married. How about my right to not have it effect my life?
Lexa Newman June 21, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Gregg, you are certainly entitled to have your opinion and to have it heard. Here is some food for thought, though. The thing is, this renewal of wedding vows (they were married previously, in a completely legal marriage performed in our Nation's Capital) took place in a store where neither you nor your children were at the time. Therefore it didn't affect your life. It COULD have, It MIGHT have. But, it DIDN'T. Secondly, this was not a religious wedding. It was a renewal of vows, therefore it was simply an occasion. Third, no one is saying that all people who love each other should convince all the Christian denominations to allow a marriage between two consenting adults who love each other regardless of sexual preference to be acknowledged as sacred by the church. That's a whole different ball of wax. This discussion that is going on in the legislature of so many states, and which is going to referendum here in Maryland is about the legalization of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality under the law. A completely separate issue from a religiously sanctioned wedding. Marriage is a legal state of being, a wedding can be either civil or religious. And a renewal of vows is an occasion. Lastly, it is certainly your right to prohibit your children from buying comic books that depict a gay wedding between its superheros. If they want to read it, though, that decision could definitely affect your life!
Randy Myers June 21, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Gregg R, comics these days are mostly written for an adult audience unfortunately, there is very little kid friendly material being published. As the Owner of Collectors Corner i can tell you we promote a family friendly environment for everyone regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. Only a little over 4 decades ago some people didn't want colored folks to be in business's where whites shopped or on buses, luckily that has changed yet intolerance remains. Having two children of my own i understand your parental concern, but not for the event that was happening here, it was not a wedding if you read the article, not illegal, they were married in DC in 2012. This was a vows renewal, or informal commitment ceremony. We host charity events for veterans, city and county public schools, private schools and help with fundraisers and even donate comics to the troops overseas because these are all people that are part of the community we live in, we give back as much as we possibly can, we love Parkville and i grew up in Baltimore, i don't think honor, integrity and trust or love between two people of the same sex will corrupt your children should they happen to walk in. Marriage should be sacred, i agree no matter who is getting married.
Randy Myers June 21, 2012 at 03:26 PM
If any two people want to pledge their devotion and strive for have lasting companionship at a time when nearly half of all marriages fail then i say let them have the privilege to try too. What harm can it do to you personally? I see it as two good hard working, honest American's just looking for the same rights as the rest of us.
Jerry Deibel June 21, 2012 at 03:52 PM
What we have here is another example of the slow but sure mainstreaming of gayness. Civil union is one thing, but marriage has a "normal" connotation to it, and a religious one as well. While I firmly believe no one should be subjected to bad treatment, denied service or deprived of any fundamental right, that is not what is going on today. The true gay agenda is to "normalize" gayness as just another variation, like red hair. or left handedness. Nonsense. Gayness is a birth defect, a mistake like a bad heart or down syndrome. Natural attraction is essential for propagation of the species, whatever the creature. This is an unwinnable argument for gays.so its never discussed. The true objective can be seen by looking at a typical "pride" march. Outrageous dress and behavior, designed to provoke the less articulate right wing bible thumpers, so gays can say, "see how unreasonable and bigoted they are to us" .This is not a rights battle, it is an attempt to normalize what is absolutely not normal.
Randy Myers June 21, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Many people brought their children in, and in the spirit of good will many who didn't agree with us doing it told me so and said they still wished us the best of luck with the event. We have been in Parkville for 11 Years, and we believe in small business and the local community. I am glad you respectfully presented your feelings on the matter, and i hope someday you stop in and check out the store.
Randy Myers June 21, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Jerry, i don't even know where to begin. Scientifically speaking, homosexuality occurs naturally in many species on earth, secondly defining normal is arguing linguistics. Outrageous dressing and behavior, so what, have you witness sports fanatics, community parades, or the local bar scene on any given weekend. I don't believe there is an objective, other than to be accepted. Normal or natural, relative terms.Marriage, Union, Friendship, Bonding, all terms that mean something different to everyone. I think it's time for people to focus on their own lives and not judge others based on something that has no real effect on their life. Lastly Marriage can be interpreted many ways by many people, not inclusively in a religious sense. To me they can call it whatever they want to, if they are happy.
Steve June 21, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Many Years of Happiness to the Both of Them!
Jerry Deibel June 21, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Randy, I refute your assertion that defining normal is arguing linguistics. If a trait exists in what is surely 90 plus percent of the population, that would be the statistical norm. Once again, reproduction demands that heterosexuality be the norm. In regard to what is "outrageous", sports fandom doesn't utilize the provocation of a sexual theme based on acts normal people are revolted by. But again, the agenda is to provoke. And just HOW am I advocating that gays don't have the right to Union, Friendship, Bonding ? I am responding to a PUBLIC display of aberrant behavior, media covered to insure effect. Why boldly proclaim "gay" marriage unless to provoke ? I'm not ferreting out people to ridicule. If you want to be treated normally, stop defining yourselves primarily by your sexual orientation, its not what "normal" people do.......
Mikalene Gerrard McCruden June 21, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Jerry. I've been called many things in my life. Egotistical. Self centered. But a birth defects? That's pushing it My sainted grandmother would tell my sainted mother that I was a vain child because I saw my reflection in a mirror before I was baptized. On a side note I was also named Mikal(the nuns at St Thomas Moore constantly reminded me my named means "like unto God "and I should act more like it). I've always assumed it meant I'm prctically perfect in every way so I find it hard to understand how anyone could say I was defective. My Mom would always say of those who spoke from hate that generally they were N.o.c.d (Not our class dear). So I generally ignore a lot of what I hear. But my friend. My people are not birth defects. Were just people. Born from love and in Gods perfect image. You know. Now that I think about it you and grandmother have something in common! You both use old wives tales to explain beings you don't understand .From my perspective Jerry your in good company. cheers
Randy Myers June 21, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Refute away Jerry, if it makes you happy. The event wasn't meant to provoke anyone from my point of view. The event for me was about standing up for my customers "rights" and of course getting mostly positive attention for my place of business. Not long ago interracial marriage was considered not normal or aberrant by many. Media covered to insure effect? Well i would say that an article on the patch that is local centric is more-so along the lines of informing the community and actual reporting instead of reported for shock value. Either way i walk away from this thread proud of the event and of my customers.
Stephanie Pullara Vancura June 21, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Mickalene, As a wife and a mother of 3 wonderful young children, I wish you the best and I can only imagine the things that you hear, the names you are called... I don't understand how some people can be so cruel and insulting. I assure you that some parents are raising their children to be respectful and kind and to love everyone, regardless of who they choose to love.
Mikalene Gerrard McCruden June 21, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Stephanie. Thank you. That is the kind of Faith in Maryland I was talking about.
Cory G June 22, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Wonderful article. Congrats Mikal and Chris and thank you Randy and Nick for the wonderful story.
Don Twine June 22, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Jerry, it's people like you that define us more by our sexual orientation by going out of your way to judge us, mock us, beat us, and deny us the right to live our lives in peace. If people like you left us alone, maybe we wouldn't feel the need to be so vocal by standing up for ourselves. And contrary to your belief, I don't wake up in the morning and plan out how I want to "provoke" people. I just want to live my life and be happy. And what I do doesn't hurt anyone. If you dislike it, fine. Be a gentleman and keep it to yourself. No one has to like what everyone else in the world does. I don't get people who watch the Kardashians, but I'm not going to give them a hard time about it.
Arlow June 22, 2012 at 04:06 AM
We'll see in November if your faith is misplaced. I don't think this is an issue that supporters who are not gay would turn out for, as opposed to those who think this is a horrendous, horrific and terrible idea. Coupled with doing away with the so-called "Dream Act", I think the opposition will be more motivated to vote... Just my 2 cts.
Mikalene Gerrard McCruden November 11, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Yay! The best part is that My Faith in MD was well founded. And I was right. As usual.

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