You can be gay in New York. You can be in love in New York. You can get married in New York. But you can’t do all three.
Celebrating their Irish roots, Tom Molton (l.) and Brendan Fay (r.) wore kilts to their 2003 wedding in Ontario.
By JOSH PARISH
It was a Sunday afternoon when newlyweds Brendan Fay and Tom Molton, fresh from their official marriage ceremony in Ontario, Canada, boarded Air Canada flight 720 bound for JFK International Airport. As they looked for their seats, the two men were both still clad in the ceremonial kilts they had worn during the wedding.
Fay joked with one of the flight attendants, asking her where the married couples sat.
It was a scene that, back home in Queens, might have inspired little more than a snooty stare and a wittily pejorative New York wisecrack. But they see things differently in Canada.
“The flight attendant just beamed and said, ‘Oh, congratulations!’” Fay recalls of the day in June 2003. “Then the airline sent a bottle of champagne to our seats.”
Which begs two questions. First, what’s life like when you’ve been legally married over the border because your own homeland won’t let you get hitched? Second, and only slightly less important-how did the Canadians, those lovably humdrum, knit sweater-wearing northerners, get more progressive than New York City?
We’ll leave the second to your discernment.
Lawfully Wedded Life
Gary Gilbert (l.) and Murdoch Matthew (r.) display their wedding rings. The couple was wed earlier this month in Quebec. Tribune photo by Josh Parish
“Very simply, Tom and I fell in love, got to a point in our relationship where we were deeply committed to each other, and wanted to declare publicly that we were partners for life-just like any couple would,” says Fay, who, along with Molton, is an active Catholic. “It’s a human right. And one a lot of people take for granted.”
In accordance with New York’s domestic partnership laws, at the city level, Fay and Molton’s marriage is honored in most ways. They’re covered on each other’s health insurance. And, under protection of international treaties with Canada by which the U.S. must honor the validty of Canadian marriages, they are formally,if not legally, husband and husband in Queens. So what else could gays and lesbians ask for?
“This is New York, this is my home,” says Stewart Kessler, Co-Chairperson of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee and Vice President of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens. Kessler and his partner are officially domestic partners in New York, but haven’t made the trek outside New York to wed. “It’s a civil right. I should be able to be married where I live, where I was born and raised.”
Matrimony And The Movement
It’s a feeling shared by most gays and lesbians, whether they’re willing to wed away from home or not.
Gilbert and Matthew’s marriage certificate from Quebec.
“Someone asked us, ‘Are you another married couple who’ll immigrate from Bush’s America?’” laughs Gary Gilbert, who wed his partner, Murdoch Matthew, at a ceremony in Quebec Sept. 9. “It’s tempting. While we were there we had total equality at the municipal and federal levels. But once we were home, I found myself blurting out to the cashier at the supermarket I had just married my boyfriend. She said, ‘Oh, I can see the ring!’ It’s the same ring I’ve been wearing at that supermarket for years.”
As with most folks who are into the idea of marriage, it’s not just the legal rewards that make it appealing to gay couples. It’s the symbolism of the act-politically, publicly and personally.
“We started out doing it more as activists,” Gilbert says. “But we underestimated how important the symbolism would be. My mother and sister were in the courtroom with us, and my sister started talking about our ‘big day.’ They saw us as a married couple. It suddenly seemed like we were on the radar screen, like we had become human.”