Sean Sasser gives an interview about exchanging wedding bands with Pedro during "Real World."
Sasser, who was in a relationship with late "Real World" cast member Pedro Zamora when the 1994 season aired, tirelessly fought for equal rights for same-sex couples long before The Defense Of Marriage Act was overturned. Pedro's story, which was documented in a touching 2008 film, was nothing short of inspirational, and Sean was an integral part of it. He remained by Pedro's side until his death in 1994, and continued the fight against the AIDS epidemic thereafter.
According to Queerty, Sasser died of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lungs that has been linked to a weakened immune system in some people with AIDS. In a statement on his Facebook page, Sasser's widower Michael J. Kaplan confirmed the tragic news and wrote, "With broken heart over the loss of my life mate -- I share the news that Sean Franklin Sasser passed away early this evening, August 7, 2013. Having lived for 25 years with HIV, at the age of 44, Sean died after a short but difficult battle with Mesothelioma."
Though not an official part of the "Real World" cast, Sasser was a mainstay of the household, and his relationship with Pedro was one of the most memorable from the series. In the penultimate episode of the season, Sean and Pedro exchanged wedding bands -- a gesture that was far ahead of its time. The couple's love for one another was genuine and pure, and their openness helped progress the country's attitude toward gays and lesbians.
Pedro's former housemate, Judd Winick, who is now an AIDS activist in his own right, weighed in on Sean's tragic and early passing on Twitter, writing, "Our friend Sean Sasser has died. Our love goes out to his family & husband Michael. We will miss u so much."
Watch the the episode that features Sean and Pedro's vow-exchange, and leave your condolences in the comments.