7.24.2011

today in new york: joy, normalcy, equality

Today in New York City, some families will celebrate their love and commitment, because the law has finally caught up with reality.
2 Dads, 2 Daughters, 1 Big Day
by Frank Bruni

Even in a city as diverse as New York and a neighborhood as progressive as the West Village, a little kid knows that having two dads is different. Eight-year-old Maeve certainly did.

She knew, too, that the world didn’t see her family exactly the way it saw others. Her dads, Jonathan Mintz and John Feinblatt, could tell.

“She understood that there was something, for lack of a better word, second-class about her family,” Mintz said.

And, as she wrestled with that, her frustration was distilled in a question that she and then her sister, Georgia, 6, began to ask more and more often.

Why aren’t you two married like our friends’ parents?

For a long time Mintz and Feinblatt avoided an answer because, while they didn’t want to lie, they also didn’t want to focus their daughters’ attention on the blunt truth: that New York, like most states, forbade it. So they perfected stalling tactics, asking Maeve and Georgia if they thought a wedding would be fun and whether they envisioned being flower girls and on and on. Anything to keep the conversation happy and the girls from feeling left out.

On Sunday, their family will be at center stage. The first same-sex weddings will take place in New York, and Mintz and Feinblatt are saying their vows at Gracie Mansion, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime friend, will officiate.

And while the two men are thrilled for themselves, it’s on behalf of their daughters, who will indeed carry bouquets and stand with them and the mayor, that they’re positively ecstatic. The men care deeply that the girls feel fully integrated into society and see it as just. Sunday’s ceremony goes a long way toward that.

Outside New York there’s less cause for celebration: Twenty-nine states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and plenty of people who interpret a formal validation of same-sex relationships as an assault on “family values.”

So I invite you to look at the values of the Mintz-Feinblatt family. They do, too. That’s why they let me drop in on them twice this week and will have reporters at their wedding.

14 comments:

Amy said...

Such a touching piece. Thank goodness NY has caught up with the times finally. Now for the other 40+ states to do the same....

laura k said...

There's so much great stuff online today about NY's big day. Here's one lovely piece: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/18/nyregion/19couplesinteractive.html

Can't linkify from phone - tho I am happy I figured out how to copy the URL!

John F said...

I was just look at a US map with colour coding for marriage laws. Is Maine more conservative than the rest of the Northeast? And go Iowa, you Midwest libertines. :-)

laura k said...

Maybe John Goldfine - wmtc's resident Mainer - will field that question.

laura k said...

Also, when many people were surprised about marriage equality in Iowa, our good friend AW1K, originally from Iowa (and gay), wasn't the slightest bit surprised. He understood it as completely in keeping with the Iowan ethic: do your thing, don't hurt anybody, mind your own business.

laura k said...

^AW1L

Alan With One L, not Alan With One K.

johngoldfine said...

"Is Maine more conservative than the rest of the Northeast?"

Hard question!

We don't have 'Live Free or Die' on our license plate like the only bordering state.... But we did give Ross Perot a higher percentage of our vote than any other state.

We have enclaves like Camden, Mt Desert, Falmouth Foreside where the rich come to play and retire.... But we rank with the poorest Dixie states in many measures of poverty, ill-health, and lousy education.

Our two senators are excoriated as Republicans in name only, one of our congressional delegates just married a billionaire, the other worked his whole pre-Washington life with his hands in a papermill.

Southern Maine is probably nearly as liberal as Massachusetts, which it is fast becoming a suburb of. The Other Maine, northern and eastern Maine, put our current governor, Paul LePage, the man who tore down the labor murals, over the top in the election last fall.

Maine has the distinction of being the first state to have its legislature pass a bill allowing gay marriage which was signed (not vetoed) by the governor. Unfortunately, the law was repealed by a pretty convincing 53-47 margin in referendum in 2009 before it ever had a chance to take effect.

A group is trying to have a non-binding initiative put on this year's ballot:

"Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?"

That seems like a backwards way to approach it for a anti-clericist like me, but if it reassures the waverers that no one will force their pastor to violate his conscience, then fine.

I talked to one of the signature-gatherers for the initiative the other day, and he said that he has had every reaction from death threats and punches thrown to dinner invitations and tearful thanks.

Other reasons why it's a tough question: on the one hand, Maine has almost always had pro-choice (or at least non-firebreathing pro-life) politicians and is not particularly religious. It has more unenrolled voters than either Democrats or Republicans and is not afraid to elect Independent candidates.

On the other, it has an aging population, has few large cities, and is very white, none of those usually indicators of liberal tastes in national politics. On balance, yes, more conservative than any other state in N.E., except maybe NH. Certainly more conservative than New York.

I don't think the equal-marriage initiative I mention above really could amount to anything unless 2012 is a big year for Democrats and they retake the Maine legislature and governorship. Then it might give them cover for a new gay marriage bill, which a Democratic governor might again sign.

But I don't think 2012 will be such a year. More likely: if prosperity returns, southern Maine will boom, bringing in younger, more socially liberal types and meanwhile the old Maine, the other Maine will slowly be dying of old age. A tipping point will be reached, after which Maine will allow same-sex marriage without further ado.

2016 would be my guess for that scenario.

laura k said...

John, thank you for the thoughtful response!

Certainly more conservative than New York.

The non-NYC-metro-area of New York is very conservative.

laura k said...

if prosperity returns

How, praytell, will this happen?

johngoldfine said...

Maine has the same north/south or upstate/downstate conservative/liberal split as NY, but of course, in NY, New York City, the very home of the MFYs, often is the tail that wags the dog as far as the direction the state takes overall. In Maine, the rural areas still are holding onto some political power.

Prosperity returning? Well, I said 'if' it returns intentionally because there certainly does not seem to be a plan out there (that makes sense) to create jobs, much less decent jobs with a living wage, benefits, security, pensions, and so on. But I can imagine that Greater Boston becomes the center of some medical field innovation or bio-computer invention or some such sciencefictiony scenario. That would spill over into southern Maine.

I forgot to mention one sign of the mellowing of Maine--the number of my students nowadays who think it's cute to wear Yankees regalia. 30 years ago, no way.

laura k said...

You'll forgive me for being too picky, but NYC politics don't hold that much sway on the state level. State laws in NY are quite conservative, and draconian far-right laws are only narrowly defeated.

That's partly why same-sex marriage is such a victory - it required many upstaters to vote in favour.

I'd be curious to see how Maine and New York compared on certain issues.

laura k said...

I forgot to mention one sign of the mellowing of Maine--the number of my students nowadays who think it's cute to wear Yankees regalia. 30 years ago, no way.

The mellowing of Maine and the commercialization of everything.

laura k said...

More great scenes from the first day of same-sex marriage in New York State (sent to me by James). Like Jen at Blag Hag, my heart - and eyes - overflow at these pics of the older couples.

Amy said...

Thanks so much for posting the link to the photos. These are SO touching. Love it all!