This summer I can get married and it'll actually mean something. That's what the President promised, and that's what we're holding him to, even if we're both marriage agnostics. It's why my girlfriend made the valiant effort to pierce the security scrum around him, shake his hand and assert, "Monsieur Hollande, I want to be able to marry my partner in Paris in July." He cheerfully said, "Oui! Sure, but you have to wait until July." "We've already waited twenty years!" she embroidered.
Hollande's partner, Valérie Trierweiler, who was standing behind him, a little sadly, put out her own hand in support. My girlfriend shook it, too, telling her she admired her independence. "Don't let them shut you up." "No!" Trierweiler said, still trying to live down an unguarded tweet.
This was last Tuesday up at New York's Roseland Ballroom during a reception thrown by the new French president for the French community. It included wine, of course, though it only began flowing after the speech. You want people a little repressed whenever you start talking politics, keeping to themselves any eye-rolling and murmuring.
Many must have just been there for the snacks, catered as it turns out, by the chi chi Tastings NYC. There were great little hors d'oeuvres, watermelon and feta with basil oil, tiny salmon mousses (mice?), shrimpy things. And for dessert, which came out to fanfare and applause, teensy weensy éclairs that went by too quickly to snag. And a rainbow of macarons, one of them with a surprising, sublime guava filling that had me grabbing a waiter and demanding to know where it came from.
And then we learned about the inner workings of life, love and pastry. The guy that emerged to answer my question was Blake Morris. He explained the macarons were done in house by the catering outfit headed up by Alexandra Morris, his wife, formerly Alexandra Payard. Yeah, she was apparently married to the French pastry mogul before hooking up with Blake, taking full advantage of her own marriage rights.
I was glad we went. Not just for the booze and the grub, which were definitely a benefit, but to provide a provocative reminder to the French President that queers exist everywhere from Paris to New York, and we were going to hold him accountable. Part of his election-winning platform was marriage equality, and after trying to slow things down, "How about we wait until 2015 or 16 maybe?" outraged French queer voters made a stink, and legislation awarding us the right to marry is finally on track, making its way from ministerial offices to the legislature, with the aim of an April vote.
Leaked drafts of the law show the government is already throwing bones to the Catholic hierarchy. Legalizing insemination for single women, especially lesbians, which had been part of queer demands, had been dumped from the bill, and adoptions by us will still have some strings attached. The Catholic extreme right, which cannot be mollified, is up in arms anyway, announcing the usual gay-inspired apocalypse. The government, meanwhile, is saying insemination isn't even really a marriage issue and they'll get to it later. Maybe when they do bioethics laws addressing questions like euthanasia.
Tricks like this are why we made the effort to remind Hollande we were watching. Hollande's "Socialists" (center-left), along with their coalition partners, have a majority in the legislature, but what's left of the law will only pass intact with strong leadership and vigilant queers pestering him day and night. For the moment, even the French public is ready to get this done, though they're still hostile to same-sex adoption, despite the many European studies saying kids with gay parents are actually a little better off than the kids of straights.
I never thought I'd care about marriage. I don't need society's blessing, and if we do get hitched it'll mostly be because of the other things that come with it, like easier immigration and universal health insurance. In France, anyway. The point is knowing we can. Especially when a country's ideals are inscribed in stone on their public buildings, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."
We lived in France for something like five years, and want to go back. And every time I'd walk past one of those civic promises, I'd be a little pissed. Because it's actually pretty simple. We're either equal or we're not. And we weren't.
The best thing about Tuesday, was that after getting her assurances from the Prez, my girl proposed to me. Maybe just because she could. I got unexpectedly teary-eyed, and kissed her right there in front of attachés and emissaries and bankers, artists, and freeloading snack eaters, raising glass after glass of glorious wine. Celebrating hope. And love. And guava macarons.