My connection to NY gay marriage
When I heard that New York would become the sixth state to recognize gay marriages, the first thing I thought of was my uncles. Andy, my dad’s brother, and Michael have been together for more than 18 years — the majority of my life. They live in a brownstone in Brooklyn, and while they wear wedding rings and exchanged vows years ago, I was curious if this would change anything for them.
Andy and I maintain our relationship primarily through bantering text messages due to distance, so I immediately shot him a text asking if they would be getting married.
“Yes! You have to be there,” he replied, later saying that maybe my father and I could both be their best men.
They plan to get legally married as soon as possible for a number of reasons, including the fact that their home is in Andy’s name. The house has been on his mind for a while, and he said he would be relieved as soon as Michael’s name could be listed too. After some more planning, Andy said they would have a bigger celebration.
There are numerous potential benefits that gay couples in New York will be able to receive. The New York Times reports that married gay couples may pay less state income taxes and could receive more rights in a number of areas, including health insurance, inheritance, parentage and worker’s compensation.
Even though I grew up four hours away from them, Andy and Michael were important figures in raising me. I remember roughhousing with them on the floor at my grandparents’ house, and Andy used to read to me before I went to sleep. Now we joke about opening a business together.
I mostly recall seeing them on holidays and in the summer, but I’ve always had a strong affinity for both of them. They both have a sharp wit and great sarcasm, which probably makes them well suited for the Big Apple. After gay marriage passed, Andy told me he was cleaning the bathroom to celebrate. Michael said if I wanted to interview him for this article I’d have to go through his public relations team.
They are also both very welcoming and giving. For years Andy worked for the Wall Street Journal and tried to convince me to wear a hat emblazoned with their name. I couldn’t possibly count how many times he’s tried to get me to wear Burberry, and while I have kept the jeans and some of the shirts he’s passed along, our styles are still quite different.
At the same time, he’s given me his old iPod and when I moved into my current apartment they sent me a set of bowls that I greatly needed.
When we visited them in March they wined and dined us. Michael and I sat around discussing his interest in writing a book one day, and Andy and I joked that I would eat all their decorative yellow candies.
I can’t say I’ve been to many wedding celebrations, but I’m more excited about theirs than I ever thought I would be about someone else’s wedding. In a way, I feel like I can share some of their joy in this victory.
Being legally married won’t radically alter their lives, but the change is nonetheless significant. It hasn’t changed their lack of desire to have children, though they are still considering a dog on their five-year plan.
Some people in the LGBT community argue that the gay marriage debate around the coun try shouldn’t be such a centerpiece of struggle.
“The LGBT movement has recently focused on marriage equality as a stand-alone issue,” reads the executive summary of beyondmarriage.org. “Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others.”
An article in Urban Habitat titled “Beyond Gay Marriage” argues that “queer white men are the most likely to be coupled whereas black lesbians are the least likely to be coupled,” suggesting that marriage rights affect gay white men like my uncles the most.
As a teenager in Massachusetts, I helped fight for our state to be the first to recognize gay marriage, demonstrating on the steps of the state capitol. My sister participated too, even organizing a protest for gay rights and marriage equality in our quiet suburban hometown.
I was involved because, regardless of my views on marriage, it seemed like a basic right.
I don’t know enough to determine whether some of the critiques of gay marriage initiatives are true, such as the argument in the article stating that marriage being a top priority has diverted funds from LGBT health clinics. Regardless, my uncle’s opinion makes sense to me.
“I think equality and nondiscrimination are essential issues,” my uncle Andy said, “and same sex marriage plays right into that.”
The struggles ahead are many and the movement will need to grapple with these important questions around framing and priorities, but for now, I am celebrating this victory for my family and for all of my queer friends in New York who may one day choose to get married.
Andy and Michael haven’t set a date yet, but I’ve promised them I’ll be there and that I will dress up. Andy wants me to wear a Rolex, but I haven’t given in yet.