Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Little Taste and Charm

Some advice for same-sex couples in California: Keep the weddings low-key so that voters won’t vote to ban it again.

The gay and lesbian couples who packed a Hollywood auditorium last week had come seeking information about California’s new marriage policies. But they also got some unsolicited advice.

Be aware.

Images from gay weddings, said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, could be used by opponents in a campaign designed to persuade California voters that gays and lesbians should not have the right to marry. Those getting married, she cautioned, should never lose sight of what they might be supplying to the other side.

Sitting close to his husband-to-be in the audience, hairstylist Kendall Hamilton nodded and said he knew just what she meant. No “guys showing up in gowns,” he said.

“It’s a weird subject,” added Hamilton, 39, who plans to wed his partner of five years, Ray Paolantonio. “We want everybody to be free, but the image does matter…. They are going to try to make us look like freaks.”


Opponents maintain that Californians’ views have not changed substantially since 2000, when more than 60% of voters cast ballots against same-sex marriage. They predict that the spectacle of men marrying men and women marrying women will anger voters and spur them to support the anti-same-sex marriage amendment.

“The more that homosexual activists wave their hijacked marriage licenses in people’s faces, the more people will say, ‘This isn’t right. . . . What can I do about this?’ ” said Randy Thomasson, the founder of the Campaign for Children and Families.

Proponents predict just the opposite will happen, that when voters witness the love and commitment involved in the marriages, they will be won over and won’t vote to disallow them.

Strategists cite polls showing that in 2004, after Massachusetts allowed gay marriage, people who saw the weddings became more supportive.

“All you had to do was just see it, and it was very difficult to then walk away and say, ‘That is not a wonderful thing,’ ” said Eric Jay, an advisor to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “It’s the power of marriage.”

Frankly, I’m torn between the idea of toning down a celebration because of what the neighbors might think and making the statement that gays and lesbians have a perfectly equal right to get married in whatever manner they like and shouldn’t tailor the ceremony for the sake of political expediency. Straight people can do flamboyantly tasteless weddings, too.

But as any arbiter of good taste will tell you, the point of a wedding or any ceremony is to share a meaningful event with friends and family and not intentionally offend or deride anyone, and if that includes the watchful eyes of the ignorant tight-asses of the ironically-named Campaign for Children and Families, so be it. And since these weddings taking place in California represent a victory for gay equality, it is a sign of maturity and thoughtfulness to remember that it’s about the couple getting married, not some short-term political statement, and it would be tacky to rub the blue-noses’ noses in it.

And they can still have a fabulous wedding. As Lanford Wilson noted in Fifth of July, “Anything’s possible with a little taste and charm.”