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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Like most couples who have spent more than a half century finishing each others sentences — and interrupting others — Jack Evans and George Harris fit like an old pair of jeans.

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While not all North Texans have embraced the gay lifestyle, the level of live-and-let-live acceptance is something they hoped for, but doubted they’d ever see.

“I said, ‘Lord, let me live long enough to see that,’” Harris, now 80, said of the prospect of being able to have an official union. “Because I know it’s gonna happen. And I can’t believe… every day I can’t believe that we’re even talking about marriage!”

How times have changed. When the men met in 1961, their lifestyle was illegal. So they loved and lived in fear.

Evans, now 84, recalls the fear. “Oh sure, you had to be careful of everything you did.” He remembers that in 1969, as New York was erupting in violence after a raid on a gay bar in what came to be known as the ‘Stonewall’ riots, Dallas police were also setting up sting operations targeting the gay community.

“The police set up a party afterwards,” recalls Evans. “Once everybody got there, the police backed up a paddy wagon and arrested 29 people before they could get out the back door or hop out a window. [They] published their names in the Dallas Times Herald the next day, on a Sunday morning. Every one of those guys had to leave the city.”

Both men have been fired from jobs when their lifestyle was exposed. And they marvel at the freedom and openness that marks their lives now.

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Just this week, a gay Fort Worth police officer was featured in a TV commercial advocating for same sex marriage—flanked by supportive colleagues.

As a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday heard oral arguments on challenges to gay marriage bans in three southern states, both men believe that the tide is finally turning. Both ultimately believe that the Supreme Court will eventually be forced to rule. But, in the meantime, they symbolically tied the knot in a church ceremony last year.

“It’s hard to describe,” whispers Evans, his voice trailing off. And on cue, Harris picks up the thought… “There will always be discrimination in this world. We just have to teach children tolerance and how to live with one another. Education overcomes so many evils.”

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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