Governor Andrew Cuomo didn't exactly say it when he called the message he left on our answering machine had a sort of rote, campaigny feel about it but I got the impression that he gives my family a lot of credit for helping to push marriage equality to passage in New York.
For years, my partner Erika and I wanted to tie the knot in New York the state where we live, where we met, where we first got to know each others' families, where we spent summers on Fire Island, where our sons, now 7, were born. But we had given up on that option being available anytime soon. We were embarrassed by the political dysfunction in Albany. In the meantime, our parents were becoming octogenarians, our sons were getting old enough to appreciate the festivities surrounding weddings and we were approaching our 10th anniversary. So, like other couples we had read about in the New York Times Style section, we decided to bring our party to Greenwich, Conn., which has had marriage equality since November 2008.
Despite the town's reputation for exclusivity, the good folks of Greenwich seemed delighted to have a pair of excited-yet-visibly-sleep-deprived parents marry in their town. The new gay-wedding mecca was breezily familiar with staging same-sex galas. Our shyness as 40-something brides did nothing to deter our perky, enthusiastic restaurant hosts. What we originally envisioned as a tiny affair turned bigger as we grew emboldened by the excitement of our friends and family. We sent invitations, then realized the enormity of the task ahead. We shopped for rings and dresses, hired "vendors," filed for a marriage license, consulted Martha Stewart Weddings online, worried about writing vows and wondered if we could bring ourselves to call each other wife. And then on June 24, after yet another dinner at which my mother offered her rules of seating arrangements just two weeks before our big day two formerly anti-gay-marriage Republican New York state senators came off the fence and eloquently explained why they were voting in support of the bill.
Cynical as I may have been about state politics, watching the vote at the end of New York's legislative session was a glimpse into something momentous, not just because the issue was so important to me but also because of the light it cast on politicians who seemed genuinely to have struggled and voted their consciences despite potential political risk. Especially moving was the testimony of devout Catholic Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, who declared his position even after it was clear that his vote was not necessary to pass the legislation. (He said that as a lawyer, he could not find a legal rationale for denying the rights he and his wife enjoy to other tax-paying New Yorkers.) The windier senator Stephen Saland also provided beauty amid the laborious proceedings. After describing the provisions that allowed him to adopt his stance, he said he had wrestled with gay marriage morally, but in the end believed his conservative parents would have thought he was doing the right thing. Marriage equality still has a long way to go, most strikingly on the federal level. But in an era of birthers and Tea Party extremists, this spare, unpolished glimpse of politicians as real people, moved by other real people, was deeply heartening.
So was the success of New York's Marriage Equality Act due to a remarkably effective governor and newly impassioned leadership in Albany? Perhaps. But Erika and I like to think that the thought of losing the Ineson/Barovick clan to a town across the border was an intolerable last straw. During and after the vote, friends called to ask if we were changing our plans. We're not. (I don't think I can withstand another effort at seating.) But we are indescribably proud and happy that we have the option to do so.