In almost 10 years of hosting a national radio program, few topics have engendered such passion as this one: Gays who've decided to boycott straights' weddings because they don't have the legal right to get married themselves. Gay men and lesbians appear to be badly split on the idea, and they're very outspoken on both sides, even strident. And the straight friends of gays are downright apoplectic, I tell you, horrified at the idea that their fun and fabulous gays, the delight of any social event, would not attend their day of joy. The straights want to know: Why is it that gays not being able to get married should ruin their own special affairs?
If you didn't know better, you'd think the end of the world were coming next week!
The topic has come up a few times, but yesterday I spent two hours fielding calls on it from across the continent, yet again, in response to Steven Petrow's "Civil Behavior" advice column in The New York Times, in which a gay man who'd gone to many straight weddings said that he had decided that he now didn't want to attend his niece's wedding because he can't get married himself, and asked the advice columnist for permission to do so. (Petrow denied him such permission).
A gay man from North Carolina called in to the show to say he's finished with straight weddings, that it's too painful to attend and watch heterosexual couples in bliss while he and his partner are banned from the legal bond. Jan from St. Petersburg, Fla., said she's stopped going to the weddings of straight friends unless they go above and beyond in making clear their support for gay marriage; she wants to see that they actually fought for gay rights, went out and volunteered or tried to get people to vote one way or another. But for another lesbian from Ohio, even that isn't enough: She stopped going to all straight weddings, including those of her brothers and sisters, and told them that they'll just have to understand that until she can get married and DOMA is finished, they need to feel some sort of sting, too.
A straight woman from Michigan was beside herself, saying that she'd have been "heartbroken" if her gay friends, whom she adores and whose rights she fully supports, had decided not to attend her wedding just because Michigan's constitution bans them from marrying. A self-described straight Catholic man from Santa Monica who is "ambivalent" about gay marriage said it would be "disrespectful" and "rude" not to attend the weddings of friends and family. Gays and lesbians opposed to the idea weighed in, as well, offering all sorts of alternative options: A man from Toronto said to go to the weddings and make sure to dance intimately and show everyone that gays are in loving couples, too. Many said it was wrong to take things out on supportive straight friends and family. More than one caller suggested going to the weddings but, in lieu of a gift, sending money to a cause supporting gay marriage.
A gay man from Shreveport, La., was strongly opposed to the idea of boycotting straight weddings, so much so that he said he'd go even if he knew those getting married were opposed to gay marriage or opposed to gay rights entirely. But Kurt from Michigan had the opposite point of view: When he found out that the spouse of a relative was anti-gay, he ripped up the wedding invitation. A man from Philadelphia expressed his current dilemma: His cousin, who is getting married, is an evangelical Christian, and she didn't invite his partner (no plus one on the invite). Worse than that, her own lesbian sister, who is her maid of honor, was told she couldn't bring her partner, either! "Should either of us go to the wedding?" he asked.
Several callers also talked about having had gay weddings or commitment ceremonies but feeling that they're not treated with the same seriousness as straight weddings by their straight friends and families. While straights are honoring one another's 10-year and 25-year anniversaries, they said, theirs are seen as sort of quaint and not as carrying the same weight (e.g., no gifts or cards forthcoming on those big anniversaries).
OK, so let's settle a few things here: 1) No, you shouldn't decide to boycott straight weddings of those who support gay marriage solely as a political statement, thus taking it out on straight friends and family who are gay-supportive. On this I agree completely with Steven Petrow's advice. That just spites everyone and changes little, if anything. But 2) if you know that one or both of those getting married are opposed to gay marriage, then definitely stay away and let them know why. And if your sister wants you to be maid of honor but tells you that you can't bring your partner to the wedding, you damn well tell her what she can do with that bouquet! And 3) if the reason for boycotting a gay-supportive friend's wedding is beyond a political statement and truly is because it's painful and depresses you, then by all means don't go. You owe it to yourself not to put yourself through that if it truly is something difficult.
And straight people, on that last bit, please get a grip. As HuffPost blogger Amelia said when she called in, gay people have every right to decide that they're not going to go to a wedding if it's something painful for them and hurts them to experience at this point. Stop being so self-centered and realize that it's not about you, and that for some people there's emotional pain in being denied a right. As Amelia also pointed out, with the divorce rate so high among straights, you'll probably have a second chance, anyway! But really, stop and think about how it affects other people, and don't be insulted if they just truly can't come. And please treat your gay friends' weddings and commitment ceremonies as you would your own, including on those special anniversaries.
Clearly this is all new territory and, the possibility of the Mayan end of days notwithstanding, we'll be ironing out the rough edges for a long time.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile