September 6, 2012 —
Did they really camp it up?” a friend asked when I returned from a nephew’s wedding. “Well, no” I said. “They’re the straightest gay couple I know.” Not that it wasn’t a fun wedding—it was. The reception was held in an artist cooperative near Rochester, where the artists also serve as staff for events that foot the bill for studio space. Their artwork is everywhere. There is a whole room dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, but she was not the mascot for Eric and Andy’s wedding.
Young men, they met on their first day of teaching and have been pretty much inseparable since then. Two years ago, when Massachusetts passed a law making same-sex marriage legal, they high-tailed it to Boston to tie the knot in a civil ceremony. When their home state followed, they knew it was time for the church wedding they always wanted.
Eric was raised Catholic, and he was a “good” one. But when his mother took issue with some of the Church’s doctrine regarding women and gays, she was excommunicated and forbidden from attending her church or receiving Catholic communion. A group of like-minded parishioners formed a new church and found space in a local Baptist church for services. That is where her son was married last weekend.
I don’t remember when we knew Eric was gay. But I remember a phone call from his father who adopted a somber tone to inform us of the revelation. My first reaction was fearful. I was afraid for the safety of this sweet, ebullient and trusting spirit in a world of ignorance and hatred. I tried to imagine him meeting another gay man to love and make a family with, a family like the one his sister and mother and father had—close and warm and loving and safe. All I could think of was the gay bar scene in Greenwich Village and in my mind, Eric didn’t fit the picture.
That was the level of my own ignorance and fear and I had grown up as a liberal-minded New Yorker. What must the rest of the world think?
As it happened, Eric met Andy, a co-worker, and sparks flew. At the wedding they spoke about the things they loved about each other. They included the way Eric approaches his work, with energy and enthusiasm and creativity, and the way Andy’s quiet demeanor belies his thespian talents and sense of humor. They seem the perfect yin/yang couple. After a stressful week, they drive to the Finger Lakes region for relaxation. When they bought a house together, they painted every room a different color, so it could be their “rainbow house.” (Okay, they are gay.) Their gift registry included all the colors of Fiesta Ware.
At the reception, which was attended by both men’s families and friends, we talked with one of Eric’s boyhood friends. The young (heterosexual) man was an Eagle Scout who renounced his rank and lifelong membership in Scouting to protest the ban on gays in Boy Scouts. He said he knows that Scouting will someday change its rules, but he felt it his duty to be one of the many who stood up to be counted.
Eric’s mother told us how much it meant to them for us to be there. My husband and I acknowledged to each other how much this wedding was like any other—the same tears needed wiping. But not only was it a great and joyous celebration, it added to our own conviction about the absolute right of all people to make a life of happiness in their own way.