06/21/2010 05:40 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

An American Wedding

"This is an historic occasion", I told my 20-year-old daughter, as we crossed the Maryland border into Washington, D.C. for the wedding of my colleague and his long time partner at All Souls Unitarian Church. Only five states out of 50, and now D.C., I reminded her, permit marriage between two men.
Trying to root the occasion in an historic context, I told her as late as the 1960's a Black and a White American could not marry legally in neighboring Virginia.

But at the end of the evening-- after the ceremony, the reception, the dinner, the toast by the best man, the cutting of the cake, the photos and the dancing-- I realized I was wrong. This wasn't an historic occasion. It was a wedding, no less, and no more.

The ushers looked spiffy and proud in their starched tuxedo shirts as they escorted guests to their seats. The grooms' mother beamed as she walked her son down the aisle. There were readings by family members, a soulful prayer by the Minister, and the Soloist's voice swelled and filled the chapel till there wasn't a dry eye in the house. As the couple held hands, each gazing at his beloved, to recite his marriage vows, each struggled to get the words out, overcome with emotion, dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief, but finishing strong in the end. And later, at a downtown hotel, the dinner was grand and the party rocked the house.

And that was it. It wasn't a political statement. It was a traditional, almost old fashioned, American wedding ceremony. Two people head over heels in love. Families busting with pride. Friends wishing the couple a long and happy married life. There were bouquets on the table, a gift registry from Bloomingdales and Crate and Barrel, and a honeymoon in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

It would be unfair to say it was "ordinary" because a wedding is always a special event. But what struck me was the utter, cosmic disconnect between the overpowering sweetness and love in the room and the hurricane of hatred and vitriol that has mobilized to stop such a ceremony from happening anywhere else.