When Maryanne and Tommy Piling were married, the bride’s mother received ugly comments about the union of two people with Down syndrome.
“Some people said to my mum that it was disgusting,” Maryanne’s sister, Lindi Newman, told InsideEdition.com by phone from her home in Essex, Great Britain.
“They gave my mum a lot of grief.”
But the mother and daughter never faltered in their belief that the couple was deeply in love, and that walking down the aisle was their tender right.
“I’ve never seen love like it among any other couple," Newman said.
The Pilings' marriage has lasted more than two decades. This summer, the couple will celebrate 22 years of living together as husband and wife.
Maryanne was 24 and Tommy was 37 when they tied the knot in a traditional ceremony. She wore a white, flowing gown and a tiara. He wore a dark suit and a big grin.
They met at a school for special needs students and Maryanne was instantly smitten, her sister said. She brought him home for dinner and Maryanne’s family fell for him, too.
After about 18 months, he asked Maryanne’s mother if he could propose. She said yes, and took him to a jeweler to buy a proper ring.
Newman said it never occurred to her that her sister was different. It was only when she started getting bullied at school that she realized Maryanne was special in her own way.
“It was name-calling, horrible words... 'You’re the one with the spastic sister.'"
It eventually died down, she said, as awareness spread of the chromosome condition that limits developmental growth.
Maryanne and Tommy can’t read or write, but they have their own home and hold down jobs, Newman said.
Maryanne’s mother lives next door and Newman is just down the road.
They take turns cooking and cleaning for the couple, and Newman drives Maryanne to her volunteer job in a local shop.
Do Maryanne and Tommy ever argue like a long-married couple?
“Very, very rarely,” Newman said. “They differ on very, very small things.”