When Terrence and I first exchanged vows in 2003, marriage wasn't legal anywhere in the United States. We held a civil union ceremony in Vermont. At the time, civil unions were the "most married" a gay couple could be in the United States. We had been through a lot -- a major health challenge for Terrence -- and we wanted to give our union as many legal guarantees as possible.
Vermont in December is cold. We didn't want to put our families (especially my aging parents) through the challenge of traveling in icy conditions. So we held our ceremony privately and didn't invite our families. Mistake.
My large Catholic family was crushed that they didn't get to celebrate with us. Big, festive weddings are a tradition in my family. I grew up on Long Island, the sixth child in a family of seven. I'm one of the lucky ones. Born in 1963, my entire family accepted me immediately when I came out to them in the early 80s. Still, I was raised Catholic and wasn't quite certain they'd get on board the marriage train. My worries were put firmly to rest when my parents gave us The Newlywed Game as a wedding present. I had underestimated their family values. They saw no inconsistency between their love for Terrence and me as a couple and their faith. To them, Family Matters are a Matter of Faith.
My family insisted we have a reception. A party to celebrate our vows. They wanted a traditional wedding for Terrence and me. Gifts, cake, frivolity. All of it. And so we had a party in our home two months after our ceremony where our families and friends could celebrate our union. It was a magical day -- tainted only by the absence of some our friends whom we lost to AIDS over the years. They should have been there.
Mothers and Sons is a play about families. It's a play about loss and hope and forgiveness. It's a play that draws a bridge between the AIDS crisis and marriage equality. Between the raging activism of the 80s and 90s and the dignified march taken up the Supreme Court steps by Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan last year.
I remember a time when the first thing anyone in the LGBT community did in the morning was read the obituaries to find out who we had lost the day before. At the height of the crisis it's what you did: loss was a crushing, devastating constant in our community. Today, we go straight to the Styles Section to see who got hitched. That's a testament to the resilience of a community -- a community that became stronger in the face of so much death.
By 2010, Terrence and I had grown dissatisfied with our second-class citizen, skim-milk marriage, i.e., civil union. We got married in Washington, D.C. along the banks of the Potomac. Tyne Daly attended the ceremony and read Shakespeare sonnet 116: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments." At the time we had no idea that Tyne would be starring in a play written by Terrence and produced by me that presented the first legally married same sex couple on a Broadway stage.
My father didn't live to see the day when Terrence and I got married.But Terrence did get to hold my father's hand on his death bed. And they got to tell each other how much they loved each other, my Dad expressing gratitude and joy that in Terrence I had found my soul mate; my true love. I know my Dad died more peacefully in the knowledge that Terrence and I had created a family for ourselves.
On March 24th, my mother will be our date as we attend the opening of Mothers and Sons. My father will be there with us in spirit. Mothers and Sons. Fathers and Sons. Mothers and Daughters. Fathers and Daughters. Brothers and Sisters and Grandparents and Godparents. The definition of family today is being expanded, broadened in glorious ways.
I hope that Mothers and Sons plays its part in celebrating that expansion. In honoring our past and creating a balm that allows for more healing in our future.
Few plays on Broadway today speak as urgently to our times as Mothers and Sons, the 20th Broadway production from legendary 4-time Tony® Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally, now in previews at the Golden Theatre with an official opening night set for March 24th. In the play, Katherine -- portrayed by Tony®- and Emmy-winning Tyne Daly in perhaps her most formidable role -- visits the former lover of her late son 20 years after his death, only to find him now married to another man and raising a small child. A funny, vibrant, and deeply moving look at one woman's journey to acknowledge how society has evolved -- and how she might, Mothers and Sons is certain to spark candid conversations about regret, acceptance, and the evolving definition of "family." Daly is joined by Broadway vet Frederick Weller (Take Me Out), Tony® nominee Bobby Steggert (Ragtime), and newcomer Grayson Taylor, under the direction of Tony® nominee Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall). For more information and tickets, visit www.mothersandsonsbroadway.com.