A beautiful testament to the value and abilities of people with Down syndrome, the first married couple with the genetic disorder recently celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary.
Maryanne and Tommy Pilling and their families faced criticism when they decided to marry back in 1995, CBN News reports. People in their community and across the world claimed their marriage would not last because of their disabilities.
But the British couple proved them wrong.
“Anything is possible with love and there should be no limitations for anyone, no matter what their circumstances are,” said Lindi Newman, Maryanne’s sister.
She runs a Facebook page to celebrate the couple and prove that they are capable, valuable people who are worthy of respect.
Newman remembered the day when Maryanne first met Tommy – it was 1990 and they were at a training center for people with disabilities.
“The day Maryanne met Tommy she came home with the biggest smile on her face. She couldn’t stop talking about him and asked if he could come for dinner,” Newman said. “She had a twinkle in her eye, flushed cheeks and was giggling whenever she mentioned his name.”
Eventually, the couple began dating, and after 1 ½ years, they married. Newman said her mother completely supported their union.
“Our mum has supported them from day one … Tommy doesn’t have any family,” Newman told Today. “They have round-the-clock support from us.”
Here’s more from Today:
After 18 months, Tommy knew he wanted to marry Maryanne. But Tommy didn’t have enough money to buy a ring. So, he got creative and bought a plastic ring from a vending machine to propose to Maryanne.
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When Maryanne’s mom, Linda Martin, realized Tommy planned on using a plastic band, she took him to a jewelry store to help him buy a ring.
This proposal caused Maryanne to “jump with joy.” At the time, some criticized Martin for allowing the two to marry because they didn’t think people with Down syndrome should, or could, have a serious relationship. But Maryanne’s family disagreed.
For the first few years of their marriage, they lived with Maryanne’s family. However, the couple later moved into an apartment on their own, a place they have shared for more than 15 years now, Newman said.
“When they walk down the street holding hands they make a statement but in a good way, What keeps their marriage so strong is that there is never a hidden agenda. They love each other with their whole hearts and are honest with one another,” Newman said.