Watching “Gypsy” take almost all of the acting honors for a musical at last night’s Tony Awards, it seemed like an early gift to all of the gay newlyweds in California. Boyd Gaines won for playing Herbie, Laura Benanti won for the best and most nuanced portrayal of Louise that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen plenty), and the magnificent Patti PuPone won the Best Actress Tony for her powerhouse, emotional, and tear-the-house-down channeling of Mama Rose, surely one of the best parts ever written for a Broadway show. When I wrote about seeing the first preview of this revival of “Gypsy” in New York last March, I declared the post the “gayest” one I'd ever written, then I apologized for my offensive stereotyping. But come on—any gay person who wasn’t frothing at the mouth last night over LuPone’s first Tony Award since she won 28 years ago for that other gay icon, “Evita,” deserves to be turned away at City Hall today.
Kendall and I are the gayest straight people at Beth Chayim Chadashim, the oldest LGBT synagogue in the world. Our rabbi, Lisa Edwards, and her partner Tracy have been involved in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage for many years, even during the days when it seemed like an impossible dream that could barely be discussed without people erupting into bitter screaming matches. When I saw Lisa the day after the incredible May 15th Supreme Court ruling, she told me she had already booked 17 June weddings. By now she must have tons more lined up. Our synagogue is participating in a big celebration tomorrow morning in West Hollywood in which hundreds of couples are expected to apply for marriage licenses or get married on the spot. It is in amazing historic moment that is almost as hard to believe as the fact that we had to choose between a woman and an African-American man in this year’s Democratic presidential primary. As recently as 2004, none of these events would have seemed plausible. In a post I wrote about gay marriage in 2006, I said the following:
Although I am in favor of same-sex
marriages for those who feel so inclined, I can see that it’s going to take
some time for the general public to fully accept it. I understand that it’s a
huge shift in the way many people have viewed marriage and that it may take a
while for enough of a groundswell to develop for any new legislation to pass.
In the meantime, I hope that alternative legal protections are provided to gay
Although I am in favor of same-sex marriages for those who feel so inclined, I can see that it’s going to take some time for the general public to fully accept it. I understand that it’s a huge shift in the way many people have viewed marriage and that it may take a while for enough of a groundswell to develop for any new legislation to pass. In the meantime, I hope that alternative legal protections are provided to gay couples.
When I wrote that, I thought it would take at least another generation for gay marriage to be legalized in California. I based that on the utter hysteria on the subject that had overtaken the 2004 presidential campaign and the continued attempts by many since then to turn back the clock and actually take away the hard-won rights achieved by gays and lesbians during the past decade.
This victory is even more of a miracle when you consider that the California Supreme Court is stacked with Republican justices. I couldn’t believe it when I heard their forceful ruling that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples was unconstitutional. The justices cited a 1948 decision that struck down a ban on interracial marriages and declared that the new ruling would take effect in 30 days. Appeals by anti-gay groups and all attempts to delay enforcement of the decision until after the November election were denied by the Court. Even our Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, supported the decision and declared that he would fight any constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriage in this state. So at 5:01 pm today, the first completely legal marriage licenses will be issued to gays and lesbians in California. MAZEL TOV! There will probably be a lot of confusion at first and I noticed on the website set up to help gay people apply for licenses that the application still has one section for “Bride” and one for “Groom.” That reminds me of the oft-repeated question asked by some of my older relatives about gay couples that we know. “Which one is the man and which one is the woman?” Oy.
Massachusetts is the only other state that has legalized same-sex marriage but we do them one better by foregoing the residency requirement—any gay or lesbian couple can now come here to get married. This will obviously lead to hordes of people trekking to our fair state to tie the knot (a boost to the economy that Schwarzenegger welcomes). And as of today California will also recognize same-sex marriages performed in other locales where they are legal such as Canada, Belgium, Norway, Holland, and Spain. As the light at the end of the tunnel of the Bush years finally begins to flicker in the distance, this ruling sends a hopeful ray into the darkness. Despite the odds, love triumphs after all!
The recording of Patti LuPone’s “Gypsy” won’t be available on CD until August. Too bad—some of the songs would be the perfect accompaniment to this week’s festivities. I can hear it now at celebrations all over the state:
If mamma was married
I'd jump in the air and give all my toeshoes to you.
I’d get all those hair ribbons out of my hair
And once and for all, I’d get mamma out, too!
If mamma was married.
Mama, get out your white dress
You’ve done it before
Without much success.
Mamma, godspeed and god bless
We're not keeping score, what’s one more or less?
Oh, mamma, say yes
And waltz down the aisle while you may.
I’ll gladly support you
I’ll even escort you
And I’ll gladly give you away.
Oh, mamma, get married today!
Not that there still aren’t plenty of people and groups fighting this decision and working to prevent other states from giving legal rights to same-sex couples. The battle continues, but as we settle in and witness countless gay and lesbian marriages in California, I hope the distraught right wingers begin to realize that their worst fears are not being realized. Unless today DOES produce a rush of men applying for licenses to marry their farm animals or women all over the state appear at City Hall and demand the right to wed their toaster ovens. Maybe the fuming folks supposedly working to protect the “sanctity of marriage” will finally see that legalizing same-sex unions will actually strengthen families in this country, not destroy them. As satirist Roy Zimmerman sings, “every time we think about same-sex marriage, it makes us sick to our guts. I mean, two people who want to commit to a stable, monogamous, life-long relationship—what are they, nuts?” Listen to his excellent song, called “Defenders of Marriage.”
In October, Kendall and I are attending a wedding on the east coast in that other gay-friendly state, Massachusetts. Before heading to Cape Cod, we’re stopping off for a quick theatre jaunt in New York. And yes, being the gayest straight people on the planet, we already have front-row tickets to see Patti LuPone in “Gypsy.” It will be like our own gay honeymoon.
“I HAD A DREEEEEAAM! A DREAM ABOUT YOU, BABY!”