Why did I care? This lovely pair deserved a meaningful answer.
“I’m not an especially benevolent or charitable person,” I started. My sister, however, was, I explained. Before dying two years ago, at age 30, she was a big proponent of gay rights. “I guess I’ve kind of adopted the cause on some level,” I said.
It sounded good, and it was true.
“So pure of heart!” Michael said. He turned to Ken. “She’s better than a random judge.”
“I’m so sorry,” Ken said. “We’re good to go.”
By the time Skip joined us, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I reported the news and charged him with gathering some information about my role. He whipped out his smart phone. Meanwhile, I launched into an accelerated getting-to-know-you session with fiancé and fiancé.
Michael and Kenneth met in 2003, I learned, at which point they had each been married twice already—to four different women—and had three children apiece. I made a mental note that their story would make a hell of a sitcom. When Kenneth proposed to Michael in March 2010, they were resigned to the fact that it might be years before they could marry officially in New York. “We didn’t want to feel like refuges, having to go out of state to get married,” Michael explained.
The specialness of the occasion continued to sink in as I stood in a back room at the podium before Kenneth and Michael, reading from the script Skip had managed to dig up on his phone. The thing about partaking in such a beautifully significant moment in two men’s lives is that you have to concentrate on not fucking it up, especially if you’re prone to slips of the tongue, as I am. But I pulled it off. The room was government-drab, but the energy was powerfully emotional.
“Here today, by the powers of the State of New York vested in me, I now pronounce you husband … and husband,” I declared.
Weeks later, Skip and I toasted the duo over dessert and Champagne at the fancy Upper East Side address where friends and family, ex-wives and all, gathered in honor of Kenneth, Michael and marriage equality. There were giant candy apples, miniature red velvet cupcakes, glass jars brimming with assorted sweets and stacks of custom-wrapped chocolate bars with recipes for a happy marriage in place of the usual nutritional information on the back. The crowd was diverse—in age, race, sexual orientation and attire, with some in black tie and others frolicking about in dreadlocks and hemp tops. But for all our noticeable differences, we were united as guests of the happy—now tax break-eligible—couple.
Toward the end of the event, Kenneth and Michael invited their entire awesomely unconventional family on stage. It was like a homosexual Brady Bunch. A Gaydy Bunch. I felt like Alice.
I left that night with several new friends, a warm feeling of human connection and a colossal sugar high.