It’s hard to know what to add to the commentary and analysis of Friday’s Supreme Court decision establishing same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right, available in all 50 American states. For those who have been living this Civil Rights struggle, the march towards same-sex marriage has been slow, coming nearly 50 years after the Stonewall Rebellion. But, by many historical comparisons, the rolling tide of marriage equality has taken place with unusual swiftness.
Many have claimed that the Court was following the inevitable lead of evolving public opinion about the rights of gay Americans to marry—particularly the overwhelmingly positive sentiments of younger people. Social commentators explain: one reason that so many men and woman have changed their hearts and minds about this very important matter is that gay people have come out of the shadows. Compared to a generation ago—or even 10 years ago—many of us are much more likely to have gay friends, family members, or colleagues. Gays and lesbians have come into the light of day in social circles, the public sphere, and business. Gay Americans, not opinion leaders or Madison Avenue PSA’s, have transformed our world view about who they are, how they live and love, and why they wish to marry. Previous generations, with few personal connections to individuals who were gay or lesbian, may have fallen prey to media stereotypes. But today, we probably think of gays as good neighbors and reliable co-workers. In other words, we all realize “they” are “regular people,” who like most of us, want to be married.
New York, led by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s steely political determination, was one of the early states to pass a Marriage Equality Law in 2011. As such, I had the great good fortune to unite many gay couples in marriage, not only those from the Empire State, but people who came from other American states and abroad. Painting in broad strokes of generalization, the first couples that I married tended to be older folks who’d been together many, many years—some for several decades. Most of them never envisioned a day when they could legally marry. Often, they’d had their own commitment ceremonies, simple or elaborate, to give voice to their love. And, these people had built rich lives together, while not legally recognized. As time went on, there were younger couples who’d come of age when gay marriage was allowed in a handful of states, beginning with Iowa, Vermont, and Massachusetts. They looked more like my heterosexual couples, in terms of their age and length of courtship.
The people I’ve married have been of varying ages and races and ethnicities. They’ve come from all corners of the world. Some of these couples had children, others did not….and a good number were expecting kids, by adoption or birth, as they recited vows before me. I’ve officiated services for physicians and nurses; bankers and lawyers; artists and musicians; financiers and physical therapists; stay-at-home parents and executive recruiters; airline attendants and pharmacists; professors and social media mavens; law enforcement officials and massage therapists; coaches and public health advocates; hair stylists and journalists; oil field workers and members of the foreign service; school principals and advertising executives; students and retirees; active members of the military and those still finding their vocational call, to name just a few. And for each and every couple, what brought them to the City Clerk’s office and then to me, had absolutely nothing to do with their chromosomal make-up. It was just love, plain and simple, and the desire to be a family. As we hear ringing again and again and again: Love is Love.
Thanks to numerous photographers for sharing these images including John Mazlish Weddings, Sugar Beet Photos, Sean Gallery, Nas Karas Studios, De Nueva Photography, Pennace Photography, and Clean Plate Pictures.