Standing on Ceremony

A Rites Issue: Straight Couples Who Refuse to Marry Because Gays Can't

But this man, for whom marriage is clearly a central part of love, is given pause by the idea of hetero holdouts.

"That is one of the sweetest sacrifices I've ever heard of, but to ask someone to do that for you is asking too much," Tuaolo says. "I wouldn't shun it away if someone came up to me and said that's what they're doing. It's so honorable, what they're doing, but that's a huge commitment." He concludes, "We have other ways to fight the fight and create a better world for us and everybody. I wouldn't go and ask my niece not to get married because of this."

Blinded by the rite: getting married when your gay friends can’t
illustration by Marc Phares/Epic Studios
Blinded by the rite: getting married when your gay friends can’t

The decision to become hetero holdouts can strain a relationship. A suspicious mate might see the open-ended postponement as a "get out of jail free" card with a noble gloss.

"We sat and talked about it," Bruce Bradley says of the decision he made with Lisa Nunez. He then quickly concedes with a laugh, "I basically talked her into it." Still, he says, "when my best friend got married, I actually performed the wedding. I didn't try to talk him out of it or tell him he's a bigot."

Connie Ress, executive director of the New York City-based gay-marriage rights group Marriage Equality, says, "I think that sometimes it's good for people to use a variety of strategies to get a point across. And this gets a point across to their personal circles. It's a statement that could create a ripple effect." But she adds, "I personally wouldn't boycott a wedding, because marriage is important to me and I want to celebrate someone's special day just as I would want them to celebrate my special day."

Rofes, on the other hand, was hoping for some of the "ripple effect" for a hetero boycott from celebrities who've built much of their careers on gay dollars and on riffing themes of gay culture. Megan Mullally of the television show Will & Grace and comedian Margaret Cho married men without fanfare only months ago, and both declined to comment for this article.

"This is more political than the pieces that Megan normally participates in, so we're going to pass," explains Jennifer Hahn, an assistant to Mullally's spokesperson. Cho's manager says the performer was "not interested or available" for comment.

Some noncelebrities already have figured out a way to make gay marriage a cause célèbre. After mulling the idea of holding out, Canadian couple Tamara Kronis and Martin Traub-Werner went ahead and married. But they harnessed the power of that family event to advance human rights and helped draw attention to these issues in their nation just before Ontario legalized gay marriages.

At their wedding, they spoke of their conviction that allowing gay marriage was right and just. They also distributed 500 postcards to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien making that point, stamping the cards at their own expense. The normally private couple's wedding—including their stance in favor of gay marriage—was profiled in the society pages of the National Post.

Kronis says the celebration shadowed by injustice reminded her of when she had her bat mitzvah while Jewish life was suppressed in the Soviet Union. At that time she wore a bracelet bearing the name of a girl in the USSR, symbolically sharing her passage with a co-religionist who didn't enjoy that freedom. Gays are denied the right to marry in our own states. One can imagine straight couples exchanging vows before clerics and clerks alike while wearing bracelets engraved with the names of a gay couple who are unable to wed—say, a gay couple in the front row.

"We think straight people have to stand shoulder to shoulder with our gay friends," says Kronis. "Everyone has to stand up and be counted. Otherwise, nothing is going to change."

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