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Kentucky couple whose case helped create marriage equality hopes history is not rewritten

From Lexington to Louisville to the Supreme Court, the love between Greg and Michael spans four decades. Now, they fear their victory could be rewritten.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon said the stars and moon aligned in 1982 over Lexington, Kentucky.

"A good song came on," Michael said. He was a college student at the time, normally surrounded by a group of friends at the town's only gar bar. That night he was fatefully alone. 

Greg was too.

In six months they moved in together. In 20 years, they tied the knot. 

It was a destination wedding in Ontario, Canada, "The only place in North America in early 2004 where a same-sex couple could get legally married," Greg recalled. 

Their small family had packed into Greg's minivan and driven to Niagra falls. With the everchanging water rushing behind them and their two children by their side, they exchanged vows. Finally, their love was legally recognized. 

Back home in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, their marriage was not legally recognized. 

In 2013, they decided to fight it by suing then-Governor Steve Beshear over the state's refusal to recognize their marriage. 

"It was about our children," Greg explained. "Michael was the only adoptive parent." That meant if something were to happen to Michael, their family could be separated. 

The two had taken legal steps to try and prevent that but wanted a more simple and clear solution, they wanted their marriage recognized.

Within two years their case was brought to the supreme court, joined by other couples from across the country. 

Finally, on June 26, 2015, the highest court ruled in their favor.  The justices found the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of State.

One justice swung the vote in a 5-4 decision based on the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The same Amendment was cited in the Roe V. Wade decision, which was overturned Friday. 

One Justice, Clarence Thomas, wrote in his concurring opinion, "In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents..."

His list of specific cases included Obergefell V. Hodges, the case Michael and Greg thought would always be an established precedent. 

"I can't believe I'm having to do this again," Greg said. "We did it for years, and then we thought it was settled in 2015. I can't believe I'm having to say these words again because it is just so frustrating that we have to keep arguing and convincing people that we have a right to be married and have our marriage recognized. It seems so basic at this point and yet here we are going through it all again."

The two told WHAS11 they've been getting calls and messages from people asking what they should do and how they can keep their families together if the supreme court strikes down their case. 

Greg tells them, as he's told himself, the opinion of one justice does not make a majority. Just because Clarence Thomas wrote those words, does not mean they'll become reality. 

However, he also tells them to prepare. Seeing Roe V. Wade overturned he now knows it's possible his own progress could also be erased. 

He tells them to consult with a legal professional, ensure both parents are listed in adoption papers, and hold out hope. 

 Contact reporter Tom Lally at TLally@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.  

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