The first gay wedding I went to was my own in August of 2004, the first year that two men could get married in Massachusetts. It was a simple affair, just Norman and me on a beach in Nantucket with the local Justice of the Peace and a photographer who was to record the proceedings. The photographer had brought his teenage daughter to help him and that had rather upset me. I didn't think a child should watch two men get married, but it was too late to do anything about it. The ceremony began just after five o'clock and the beach was deserted. It is described in Norman Sunshine's and my book Double Life: A Love Story so I won't repeat it now. I will say that I cried a lot and barely made it to the end, but I did feel afterwards a great sense of freedom. It was as if I were suddenly flying high above the world letting everyone see who I was for the first time. It was a moment of euphoria that I had never been allowed to experience in the almost fifty years Norman and I had already been together.
A few days ago I went to my second gay wedding. We had been contacted by Chris Herrmann, whom we didn't know, and told us that he and his partner Joseph Lorino had read our book and when they had finished it, decided to be married like us. We were very moved and immediately agreed to be at their wedding that was to be given in the nearby town of Southbury. It was a Saturday and the morning began badly. I felt sorry for the couple who had told us they had planned a large wedding, and as it was June, it was bound to be outdoors. But as the time approached that we were to be there, the sun began to appear for longer and longer periods, in a similar way to what the weather had done on our wedding day...
We arrived at a handsome 1820s Greek revival house with white pillars looming above a grassy knoll where a group of colorfully dressed revelers were drinking champagne. We joined them and waited for the two spouses-to-be to arrive. When they did, in an open convertible, they sped by, acknowledging our applause and quickly disappeared into the house. A woman, who turned out to be one of the wedding planners, led us all to the paneled front door. We entered a two-storied foyer where we were all told to wait in front of a curving staircase. Through an archway we could see a string quartet that was playing what sounded like a sonata, but in the middle of it, they suddenly switched to "Here comes the bride." We all stared transfixed at the staircase that remained empty until a huge brown dog bolted down from the top, wearing a pink scarf around its neck. It disappeared through the crowd of about eighty people, and then a beautiful little blond girl came down the steps taking rose petals out of a basket and scattering them as she descended.
After that, young girls walked down the stairs, all dressed in pink, obviously the bridesmaids. Finally the two handsome grooms appeared. They were wearing suits and ties and had pink leis around their necks. Through all of the procession the quartet played "Here comes the bride" over and over. An attractive young woman performed the ceremony and Chris and Joseph each read words that they had written. Both of them pledged to be true and faithful for life. Tears came to Chris' eyes as they did to most of us watching. There was a moment of panic when it came time for the rings. They couldn't be found. Chris announced that the rings were in the scarf tied around the dog's neck and he had disappeared. But at last he was discovered in the kitchen and brought back in time for the ceremony to end happily. The room was filled with families, relatives and little children. I couldn't help thinking, as the two grooms kissed, that eight and 10-year-old children were watching this as if it were an everyday occurrence. There were some gay people there but the majority were families just so happy to be sharing the festivities. Was it possible that the day was near when gays would take their place in society with everyone else? At our wedding, eight years before this, I'd been worried than a teenage girl was watching us. But on this day, children of all ages and their parents were happily moved and eager to share in the atmosphere of love. And then only yesterday we heard President Obama, in a speech in Chicago, speak again of the right to love. What an amazing journey Norman and I have had in our half-century together. It started at the end of the '50s when we were told that we were either deviants or criminals. It hasn't ended but at least we've lived to see, "Here come the grooms!"