August 27th, 2008
Now gay marriage is legal in California. And, though New York state does not have gay marriage, our governor, David Patterson has announced that out of state ceremonies will be recognized by the state. Massachusetts, realizing how much revenue they stood to lose by not performing weddings for out-of-state gay couples, quickly changed their laws. And now they’re more than happy to take all the queer cash that will come flooding into the state.
And so, gay and lesbian couples who live in New York state can now easily wed, in two of our fifty states. But should they?
If you want to declare your love for each other in a formal way in front of your family and friends, by all means you should. As focused as I am on the rights associated with marriage, I understand there are couples who strongly desire the spiritual bond that comes with that ritual.
If one of the two members of the couple works for New York state and has a pension (like a firefighter, for example) probably you should get married tomorrow to secure the pension for your spouse.
If, for you, getting married is its own form of protest, hurry up and tie the knot.
If, however, after getting the license and having the ceremony you are expecting to have your relationship recognized by the United States of America, you’re going to have to wait to get married.
I was saddened to read that when next we take our U.S. survey, gay & lesbian couples who have legally wed in CA, MA or Canada and who check the box “Married” when filling their forms, will have the answer changed to living together/partnered. The reason being that, because of DOMA, checking the married box is a lie in the eyes of our government. No matter what you say, Uncle Sam says, “No way. Sorry. You aren’t married.”
We have no money for health care, education or the arts in this country, but, apparently, we do have enough money to pay some guy to cross out married and write in partnered on census forms. That’s someone’s job!
So when people ask me why I’m boycotting weddings when I can so easily get married in California, I explain how thrilled I am that California has taken this step toward equality. How delighted I am for the couples who have chosen to wed. And I tell them that, for my partner and me, it’s not enough. We want all the rights and recognitions afforded straight couples. Assuming the federal government doesn’t burn through all of social security paying the census guys to re-write the forms of homos, I’d like to know my partner and I will receive each other’s benefits, inherit each other’s estates without being taxed and the 1300 other things we’re denied as a gay couple.
Perhaps marriage shouldn’t be about money. But the fact is that denying gays federal marriage is a very effective way to keeps us, as a group, economically disadvantaged. And money and progress go together. When African American’s stopped getting on the bus, things began to change.
Just as Massachusetts began allowing out-of-state gays to wed when they realized how much money they were going to lose to California, pressure on the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage will come from the one hundred billion dollar wedding industry when they realize that five or ten or twenty percent of their income has stopped because people of conscience have ceased participating the marriage economy.
When federal law changes, who knows, California might be a lovely spot for a ceremony.
By Ken O'Neill • Posted in Uncategorized
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August 21st, 2008
I can’t begin to tell you what a snap it is to skip weddings when no one’s inviting you to any.
How I thought about the day when an invitation would finally come. It would be from my father’s third cousin-once removed, who, though present at my christening, had been absent from my life since. Sorry, no can do, I’d write on my response card. I‘m Gay, I don’t attend weddings. And then, after having taken the moral high ground with a complete stranger I could forget about this political position of mine.
And then the day arrived when an invitation came–not from my hoped for stranger. But from one of my closest friends. I’ll call her Davy, since that’s her real name. Davy’s not my oldest friend, but she was one of the first people that my partner, Marcus, and I met together. She was the first friend to be given the label “Our Friend”. And now “Our Friend” was getting married.
“Maybe we should make an exception.” Marcus said it, though I was thinking it as well. But there was no need to make an exception. Davy was aware of our stance before she even had a boyfriend. This was all going to be fine.
Except then suddenly it wasn’t.
We kept suggesting that maybe we’d come. If not to the wedding, well… We briefly toyed with a let’s-just-go-to-the-rehearsal-dinner loophole. We were wishy-washy and filled with doubts. Because, after all, what is the impact of a two person wedding boycott? And this person whose event we’re boycotting is a beloved, she is not a third cousin (once removed).
And so we stalled. We stammered. We avoided. And then one night over dinner I just blurted out, “We’re not coming.” It was a horribly awkward moment, but Davy assured us she understood.
A week or so later, Marcus and I hosted a screening of our (she used to be just mine when I was single) friend, Jennifer Westfeldt’s film Ira and Abby. In the film, the characters marry and divorce multiple times. After the movie was over, Davy asked me how I could be so supportive of a film about marriage. She was clearly hurt. I had no idea what to say. I worried our friendship would be irreparably damaged.
In the weeks that followed we had several talks. I tried to explain what I was trying to accomplish by not going. This was difficult, because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to accomplish. I just knew the ache I felt inside. My own longing to be wed. My desire for change.
The week of the wedding Davy said she was having a pre-wedding, pre-rehearsal, cocktail party. Davy was originally from LA and she was marrying a French man, so there were lots of out-of-towners in Manhattan. As a result she was hosting events all week long.
We decided to go for drinks. It wasn’t the wedding. But it was a way to be supportive. When we arrived, Davy hugged me, we both got a little emotional. I knew everything was fine with us. I felt she was really okay with the choice we’d made. I didn’t understand what had caused the shift. But I was relieved.
At the party, I chatted with a woman who I had come to know through Davy. As we parted to move on to other conversations she said, “See you Saturday.”
“No. I won’t be there.”
She laughed. Slapped my arm, playfully. “Yeah, right. See you Saturday.”
As we were about to leave, I saw a woman I did not know pushing her way through the crowd to speak to us. It was Davy’s father’s girlfriend we quickly learned–a television writer and producer from LA. She introduced herself and said, “I just want you to know that I totally support what you’re doing We were all talking about this last night at dinner. My writing partner is gay. He’s my dear friend. We bought burial plots together, that’s how close we are…”
She said more lovely things, but I can’t recall them because I kept thinking it’s the first family dinner of the wedding week and every one is talking about two gay guys not going to the wedding. I imagined the various opinions–pro and con. And in an instant I knew I had made the right choice.
All this conversation took place. This debating. This anger. This understanding. All of this thought was happening about this subject, because I wasn’t going. None of it would have happened if I’d just gone.
Later I learned from mutual friends who had been there, that the conversation continued at the reception. As more friends inquired as to our absence.
I believe those conversations are vital. And I believe they only happen when with all respect I very sadly send my regrets.
By Ken O'Neill • Posted in Uncategorized
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August 5th, 2008
I am the most reluctant of activists. My high school photo was not actually captioned ‘Least Likely to Start a Movement’. But that’s only because it had no caption at all. I wasn’t really a joiner. Or a ring leader. Not a trouble maker. I was a go-with-the-flow guy.
But something happened to me. Slowly. Over time. I’d have a discontented feeling that I’d squash. An unpopular opinion I would not share. And then, all at once I could no longer do what was expected of me. I had to voice my dissent.
And this moment came while watching Oprah.
And not one of those Oprah young girls sold into prostitution shows. No. It was a sweet, fantasy wedding episode. I watched a beautiful wedding ceremony. And as I watched, I began to cry. First just a few tears. Then I began to wail violently. I couldn’t catch my breath. I’ve never had a nervous breakdown. But it occurred to me that my exaggerated response to the televised nuptials of complete strangers might in fact constitute some kind of emotional collapse. I wept straight through the commercial break.
When the show resumed, Oprah was back in her studio sitting with the wedding planner. To me, he seemed pretty gay. And all at once, I understood my tears. I was watching an event that I felt that I, as a gay man, would never be allowed to have. I wondered how conflicting it must be for that wedding planner to dedicate his life to creating events he was forbidden by Federal law from participating in. Then I thought about the whole wedding industry. the florists, organists, dress designers, cater-waiters. What would happen if gay people stopped working in the wedding industry? Straight people wouldn’t be able to get married.
Well, of course they would. But the events wouldn’t be nearly as fabulous.
Around this time I had attended four weddings in three months. One a gay couple in Holland, was unbelievable. Two gay men legally wed. The other three were straight couples in the USA. These three ceremonies were rough for me. I was happy for my American friends. But the events themselves were really painful. I attended with my partner. We had been together longer than any of these married couples had been together. I kept wondering if any of the newlyweds would give us special thanks for attending what was obviously a difficult event. Some special praise for attending the segregated event that bans us. But no thanks were offered.
Soon after, we decided to stop attending weddings and we don’t give gifts. I refuse to participate in the wedding economy in anyway until all Americans have equal federal marriage rights. My partner and I are encouraging everyone to join us.
I’ll be back soon to write about what happened the first time we declined a wedding invitation for moral reasons.
By Ken O'Neill • Posted in Uncategorized
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