Mark Hefner, left, and Gregory Motsch

To mark Valentine’s Day this year, Dallas Voice reached out to some longtime local same-sex couples to talk about the secrets to a lasting relationship. Among the couples that responded was Mark Hefner and Gregory Motsch of Arlington, who’ll celebrate their 25th anniversary on Oct. 31. Below are their answers to our questions. Happy Valentine’s Day!

DV: Where, when and how did you meet?
Mark and Gregory: We met in Ohio the spring of 1986 on a double date to our high school prom my senior year. Greg had graduated the previous year, but we had never really known each other before that night. I took my girlfriend, and Greg took a mutual friend of ours, Melissa. Coincidentally, she also now lives in the Metroplex with her husband who also went to our high school; they met later that that same year. (Apparently there’s something in the water up in Ohio that spawns long-term relationships!)

DV: Was it love at first sight? Please explain.
MG: Well, not sure either of us knew what it was at the time, but there were definitely sparks! (He looks damn good in a tux.) There certainly was enough there to keep a couple confused teenagers interested all summer until we finally hooked up that fall when we started going to college together. By Halloween we were officially in love, and that’s the day we chose as our anniversary date.

DV: Have you traveled anywhere to get married or enter a civil union?
MD: We were legally married in San Francisco on Oct. 30, 2008 — five days before Proposition 8 tried to revoke that right. Fortunately, we were grandfathered-in, so we are still legally married wherever it is recognized. We kind of did it on a whim, as a rebellious act against those who sought to ban us from doing it. Since we already had an anniversary/Halloween trip planned to San Francisco, it seemed like the perfect time to make honest men of each other and have our relationship legally recognized after 22 years together. We had previously lived in San Francisco for several years before moving to Dallas, so we had a few friends from there gather with us for a beautiful ceremony on the balcony under the dome of City Hall. To make the celebration complete, about a week before the trip I threw together a few details like flowers, cakes and a menu for 20 at one of our favorites restaurants. Dozens of champagne bottles later, the deed was done.

DV: Do you have kids and/or pets?
MD: We have one, extremely spoiled little girl — a black lab mix named Daisy. After seeing how badly we’ve done at spoiling her, we didn’t think it wise to try out kids. Thankfully she is the sweetest dog in the world, too, so her temperament and personality balance out our bad parenting.

DV: What is the secret to a lasting relationship, or the key to having stayed together for so long?
MD: First, I’d have to say our parents. Mine were together over 44 years before they passed away and Greg’s parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary. Having examples like that, I don’t think either one of us really contemplated any other life, other than sticking it out for the long haul and staying together. It’s certainly not always easy, but deep down we truly love each other and we both know it. That provides a sense of comfort and reliability that’s hard to put into words. I think you definitely have to let go of jealousy and be willing to make compromises, and of course there’s a bit of perseverance involved. However, at the end of the day, the bottom line is love keeps us together. If you truly care about someone, you want to make them happy and you want them to be a part of your life forever.

DV: If you had 30 seconds with Rick Perry or Barack Obama or anyone else who doesn’t support same-sex marriage, to make your case why you deserve the same rights as any straight couple, what would you say?
MD: This country, at last check, is not a theocracy. You cannot discriminate against citizens due to any religious belief you happen to hold. Although, could you please explain to me why only certain passages of Leviticus seem important to you? You certainly cannot tell me that my 25-plus-years relationship should be deemed less valid than a 72-day Kardashian event. Or that my loving relationship is somehow more harmful to the fabric of society than Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages. Please, I’d love to hear your explanation for denying me thousands of rights. I’m all ears …

DV: What is your best Valentine’s Day memory and what do you plan to do to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?
MD: This may not sound like a good memory, but for some reason, we both picked it as the answer. It was 2003. Over the years, we have often opted to spend Valentine’s Day at a hotel — one year it was Hotel ZaZa. That was not this year. This year we decided to get a suite with a fireplace somewhere close to our home in Arlington. There were not a lot of options, but it was decent enough. We had a nice dinner. Again, Arlington is not the cuisine capital of the world, but a decent meal was had aside from a slight tiny spider infestation near our table. We were determined to make the most of it – after all it was a special night away from the normal routine of cooking and staying home. After dinner we went back to the room, had a romantic fire, some chocolate covered strawberries and a couple bottles of champagne. A few hours later, after drifting off to sleep, I was awoken frantically by Greg yelling at me to get dressed. There was a fire in the hotel and we were all evacuated to the parking lot where it was freezing cold. Not sure how long before we were let back in, but I remember becoming concerned about frost bite. Anyway, we took that as a sign to pack up the champagne glasses and just head back home to finish the night cozy in our own bed. Perhaps it’s that part that makes us remember it fondly — the safe harbor of our own home after a fairly disastrous night.
To be honest, we historically have really bad Valentine’s Days — sort of like Mary Richard’s notoriously bad parties on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. One year I tried my hand at lobster tails — hand to God, the things would NOT cook. We just embrace it and have a good time together, no matter what. This year, since Greg’s been away from home for a month on business, we plan to just cuddle on the couch and catch up on TV shows on the DVR. Maybe order a pizza.