06/06/2012 11:51 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Here Come the Grooms

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
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

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!"