Gay nuptials - this time, it’s personal

Author: Andrea Peyser
Publication: New York Post
Publication Date: June 20th, 2011

Click here to read the full article at NYPost.com

 I give in. To my dear niece and her lovely wife -- mazel tov.

On the day of her big, fat gay wedding, the bride wore a flowing, white dress. 

The other bride walked down the aisle in a white tuxedo.

More than 100 friends and family members, some bursting with joy, others silently disgruntled, gathered in a country club in Massachusetts to watch an act that was at once bold and profound. And as normal as the wind.

In this over-the-top shindig, planned for a year like a small military incursion (open bar, hers-and-hers gift registry, choice of vegetarian entree), the pair looked into each other's eyes.

 

And they said, "I do." Forever.

 

As New York's state senators sumo-wrestled last week -- without coming to a decision -- over the historic idea of becoming the sixth state in the nation, and the biggest, to legalize marriage between people of the same sex, in places like Massachusetts and Connecticut, gay weddings have become as common as rain.

 

So when my proud, defiant niece took the plunge Saturday, she chose to wear pants not because of any role she plays. To her, wearing slacks is as natural as breathing.

 

As effortless as love.

 

All across America, people like me, who've been on the fence as to whether Adam and Steve or Beth and Susan should have the right to walk down the aisle legally, are being forced to confront their deepest reservations.

 

Would gay marriage cheapen the heterosexual kind? Render it meaningless? The truth is that many of us who once felt this way are wavering on the side of the guys and the girls.

For the first time this spring, polls determined that a majority of Americans, however slim, favors gay nuptials (although the polls didn't touch controversial gay adoption, treated equally with straight in New York). An ABC/Washington Post poll determined that 53 percent of us approved of gay marriage, up from 36 percent five years ago.

 

The reason is plain: This is personal.

 

Despite abstract discomfort over normalizing gay unions, I don't know a soul who would discriminate against the nice guys next door. Nor would I deny my niece happiness that is evident in the size of her smile.

 

The vast majority of opponents of gay marriage are not rank bigots. We're pleased that in New York City, gays who register as domestic partners are afforded most protections and benefits of straights -- including the right to visit partners in jail or the hospital. Many private businesses provide the same benefits to gay couples as they do marrieds. A good thing.

 

"This is one instance where business has been ahead of the government," said Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, an activist group. But as I've learned, this doesn't guarantee equality in, say, Elmira.

 

"Marriage brings that statement of clarity, dignity and connectedness to another person that is immediately understood and powerful," Wolfson said.

 

My family always believed my niece was a confirmed bachelorette. But when her little sister married (a guy), she arrived at the wedding not with a conventional date, but with her "roommate." Some of us suspected the truth.

 

Still, denial rendered her religious Christian grandparents and assorted kin blind. That is, until she matter-of-factly announced her secret love. Ironically, I won't name the couple here, because they fear job discrimination. This is wrong.

 

My niece first realized how huge an act her wedding was to be not at the altar, but staring at a piece of paper a few days ago. She went to a local City Hall to sign a marriage license. It blew her away.

 

"It was powerful," she said. "I had to check a box. There was male and male, female and female. It's completely normal!" she told me.

 

"I cried."

 

This is how the world changes. Not with government dictums or activists' chants. But with a single act of love.

 

I've confronted gay marriage through the eyes of a member of my family who had the guts to be herself. It makes her relatives love her no less. Perhaps even more.

In the run-up to the wedding, I've seen that devotion trumps politics.

 

May it last a lifetime.