“People know who they love,” former governor David Paterson told The Observer last night, as he worked his way through a lamb cutlet. He and a host of other New York power players had gathered at the Four Seasons restaurant to celebrate the marriage of Bill White, former President of the Intrepid museum, and longtime partner Bryan Eure. While the couple’s nuptials were the primary purpose for the lavish gathering, the evening offered various politicos the perfect opportunity to voice their support for gay marriage writ large.
“These weddings are really even more exciting than the usual weddings you go to, because there’s a lot of pent-up frustration. And they will probably value this moment more than most of us did when we got married,” Gov. Paterson added, taking the opportunity for a jab at Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachman and her avowedly anti-gay husband, Marcus. “I think Michele Bachman’s husband wants them to come to class and you learn to not love who you love. That’s not happening,” he said firmly.
An impressive 700 people had convened for the occasion. The event drew many of New York’s movers and shakers, with guests including Barbara Walters, Clive Davis, Victoria’s Secret model Karolina Kurkova and Marty Markowitz.
Outside the storied restaurant, a fleet of Navy Junior ROTC members stood at attention, flanking red, white and blue carpets leading to the entrance. Walking through revolving doors, guests were serenaded by the The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus who sang a litany of tunes by artists ranging from Dusty Springfield to Katy Perry.
We spoke with Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, who eagerly discussed the political importance of the evening. “New York has arrived,” he said triumphantly. “We continue to be known as a city of great tolerance, and that we welcome everybody.” Making sure to hit all the bullet points, he addressed the financial potential of gay marriage. “This is so good for business,” he said, surveying the venue. “People from all over the world now understand that this is an economic advantage to New York city, as well as such a great moral imperative,” he said before disappearing into the party.
Guests were directed by security into one of two rooms, either the main event space or an adjacent area where the ceremony was shown on simulcast. After the wedding certificate was signed, guests vied for limited spots in the main room eager to see a live performance from the Queen of Soul herself, Ms. Aretha Franklin.
Squeezing into the packed space after the concert began, we ran into council speaker Christine Quinn, who was enjoying the music with her partner. When The Observer approached, speaker Quinn insisted we wait and see what the next song would be before speaking. As the next number was a tune from Ms. Franklin’s new album, speaker Quinn obliged, sharing her thoughts on the evening. “I think the message beyond Brian and Bill is one about family and love,” she said. “And what a wonderful thing to have the laws of the state of New York affirm that,” she added.
Although we asked several of the guests if the Obama administration had let down the gay community in failing to support same-sex marriage on the national level, none seemed willing to criticize the President outright. We asked Gayle King whether the evening’s festivities sent a message to the President. “No I don’t think that. I just think that New York is leading the nation about finally doing the right thing… I’m not putting Barack Obama in this at all. At all,” she said. We decided it best not to press the matter, given all the love in the air.