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It's Not Illegal to Have a Gay Wedding

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The Abbey, a popular gay nightclub in West Hollywood, Calif., has decided to ban bachelorette parties for straight women until everyone's marriage is legally recognized.

"We love our straight girlfriends coming in to celebrate one of the happiest days of their life," says Abbey owner David Cooley. "But it's also a slap in the face to my customers and my life that we can't have that same celebration."

Really? Because the last time I checked, having a gay wedding isn't illegal anywhere in the United States -- and neither is having a within-the-legal-limits hell-raising gay bachelor or bachelorette party. While I appreciate Cooley's sentiment and the statement he's trying to make here, it sends a strange message to people -- that you can't get married or celebrate your wedding until your government says you may do so. We're fighting for our marriages to be legally recognized, not to have the right to devote our lives to the person we fall in love with. That's not within the government's jurisdiction.

I think it's great that The Abbey is taking a stand. But I also want David Cooley and others to choose their words carefully.

Readers of Equally Wed may have noticed that we make a concerted effort to use appropriate language when discussing marriage equality and the lack of legal recognition that most states and our nation at a federal level fail to give to gay and lesbian couples' relationships.

Some people might say I'm splitting hairs when I say that currently only a handful of states in the United States legally recognize same-sex marriage. I refuse to say that the remaining don't allow gay marriage; instead, I choose to say that their laws prevent same-sex couples from receiving a marriage certificate and all the legal protections that go along with having a legally recognized wedding.

Here's why I'm so damn picky. When slaves were having their weddings on the backside of plantations, jumping their brooms and declaring their love and lifetime commitment to each other in front of their family, friends, and God, would you have called their marriage anything less than a marriage, even though they couldn't get a marriage certificate from the city?

Yes, we want all our states and our country to recognize our marriages and give us the more than 1,300 rights naturally afforded to our straight neighbors, coworkers, and friends who wed, but we don't need the government to tell us when it's an appropriate time in our lives to commit to the person we love.

My wife and I live in Atlanta, Ga., where same-sex marriage isn't legally recognized in any capacity. But we knew -- we always knew -- that we wanted to get married before starting our family. That was the plan we had for us. It was the right time. And when Maria proposed on a chilly afternoon in Central Park in 2008, I proudly announced our engagement to our friends and family. I was taken aback by some people's well-meaning comments:

"Is that even legal?" Um, yes, we were not arrested when Maria put a ring on my finger.

"Are you going to go to California to get married?" (For a blip, gay marriages were legally recognized there before Prop 8 gave them the smackdown.) No, why would we go to another state to have our wedding that we want all our friends and family to attend?

"Can you do that?" Hell, yes, and we're going to. Why are you doubting this, people?

And so we did. First, my best friend since childhood threw me a fantastic, progressive bachelorette party where we traipsed around town on silly scavenger hunts and I received presents of lingerie, plastic rings, and, yes, plenty of cocktails. At the end we met up with Maria's camp at a sultry cigar and hookah bar and twirled around on a packed dance floor to the hip-shaking grooves of salsa music.

A month later Maria and I said "I do" in front of our nearest and dearest. My brother walked me down the aisle, because my dad had passed away just eight months prior. Maria's parents made a great, funny speech about having a long-lasting marriage. God was recognized. Happy tears were shed. People were remembered. Love was celebrated. Smiles were abundant. Promises were made. Hugs and blessings were given. We had a grand, festive affair that lasted well into the night. We spent a lot, drank a lot, kissed a lot, danced a lot, loved a lot, and are still madly in love three years after our wedding, eight after we began dating. Were we any less married because our government doesn't acknowledge it? I certainly didn't feel like it.

And since we tied the knot, we were successful in our efforts to have a family, and last year, we welcomed our darling twin sons, Leo and Rocco.

Also in 2011, we flew to New York to have our marriage legally recognized in the eyes of someone's law, even though it's not our homestate. And it felt damn good. But so did our 2009 wedding in Georgia, where no arrests were made.