June 23, 2010
June weddings are an American tradition. Well at least for those who are legally allowed to marry, like Rush Limbaugh, for instance. The spokesperson for family values just this week consummated marriage no. 4 to a woman barely half his age.
Meanwhile, a marital event of a different type was occurring in San Francisco this past Wednesday, where the Federal District Court heard closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, challenging Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban. Whatever the ruling, this landmark case is likely to ultimately land in the U.S. Supreme Court.
That brings me to the subject of my marriage to Steve (Steve Natterstad, M.D., Dr. Steve in The Body's Tratamientos forum). Can a mixed serostatus couple find happily-ever-after marital bliss? Although we can't speak for other couples, we can say, despite HIV and Proposition 8, we are indeed happily and legally married. (Stay tuned to The Body for Dr. Steve's upcoming podcast describing our "three-way" with HIV!)
We were one of the 18,000 gay couples to tie the proverbial knot before the evil Proposition 8 banned further same-sex marriages in California. We hadn't planned to tell anyone about our rush to the altar, just in case Proposition 8 passed, but the news got out. Consequently I penned a very quick e-mail to all our friends explaining what happened and why. In light of all that has happened since, I've decided to resurrect that exact e-mail and share it with all of you.
Steve and I have vowed not to have the party celebrating our legal union until all same-sex couples have the option to do the same. I hope the retelling of this absolutely true "fairy tale" wedding will not only make you smile, but will also provide encouragement to other magnetic couples to follow their dreams and create their own excellent adventures.
Sorry for the mass e-mail, but since this news is spreading fast we decided to make it official, since we just "made it official." Here's the CliffsNotes version of what transpired.
May 15, 2008: The California Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. BRAVO! Same-sex couples begin saying "I do" on June 17, 2008. Bob and Steve begin planning for a walk down the proverbial aisle to take place in spring 2009. Right-wing religious wingnuts spearheaded by the Mormon Church, Focus on the Family, The Knights of Columbus and The Roman Catholic Church gather enough signatures to put Proposition 8 on the November ballot that would amend the California State Constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Money pours in from the Mormon Church and other cults as zealots try to write discrimination into the constitution. Bob and Steve festoon their home with "No on 8" yard signs, which have a difficult time competing with their numerous Obama yard signs, all of which makes life increasingly difficult for "Ysidro the Gardener" to mow the lawn.
October 28: the polls are running neck and neck for and against the proposed amendment. Bob and Steve decide it's time to act. The final decision to marry now, party later is made. They decide to secretly head to City Hall, get hitched, not tell anyone and then continue on with wedding plans for Spring/Summer 2009. Even if Proposition 8 passes and the constitution is amended, they would still be legally married! Take that you evil religious zealots! Steve decides he is in desperate need of a cappuccino before they head to City Hall and runs to Peet's, a favorite coffeehouse. He really should have "run," because by taking the new Mini Cooper S, he manages to get pulled over for a speeding ticket. Could it be a bad omen?
Bob, meanwhile, is getting his blood drawn to see if his new HIV regimen is working. With Band-Aid in place and speeding ticket in hand, they set off for Marriage Central at City Hall. At the marriage license window, they are confronted by a delightful woman with spiked hair who says, "Oh, you must be here for a 'just in case' ceremony?" Yep, that's right. They quickly fill out forms and are only temporarily stumped by the choice to check "Party A and Party B" or "Groom and Groom." (They eliminate the "Bride and Bride" and "Bride and Groom" options instantaneously.) As the paperwork is being processed, Steve checks the stock market to see how some recent investments are doing. Up 889 points! Good omen? This must be the "for richer or poorer" part. S
Spiky-Haired Gal finalizes the paperwork and advises Bob and Steve that the only option for a civil ceremony prior to the November 4th election is on October 31st at 4 p.m. as part of a group/communal ceremony in the basement chapel of City Hall. They would be married on Halloween in a communal service in a basement chapel??? Priceless! They love the idea. Next, they need witnesses. Or, for ten dollars City Hall will find someone to sign off. By the way, rings are also available for ten dollars. They opt for their Cartier Trinity triple-band gold rings that have been in place for thirteen years and decide to ask their good friends Friedemann and Lisa, also newlyweds, to witness the event.
October 30: Bob and Steve check the forecast for always sunny California. Forecast: rain. Bad omen?
October 31: Bob awakes early to find Steve is not in bed. He locates him, an alarming shade of green, asleep moaning on the family room sofa. This must be the "in sickness and in health" part. Hmm. Just how many damn bad omens do they need? Steve has had a rough night of expelling bodily contents from both ends. Bob hasn't seen Steve this particular shade of pukey green since New Year's Eve 2000 when they ushered in the new millennium with Streisand in Las Vegas. (One of the many Babs farewell tours over recent years.)
Steve states even if he has to yell "I do" from the men's bathroom stall or carry a bucket down the aisle, he plans to get married at 4 p.m. Bob recreates his role as a combination Florence Nightingale/Nurse Ratchet and Doctor Seuss and manages to get Steve upright and smiling. By 1 p.m. they still haven't decided what to wear (after all, it is Halloween) and if they would actually make it down the aisle. Steve checks Pollster.com to see if the electoral map has shifted any of its reds or blues. Bob decides to dress like the electoral map -- red and blue. Steve will be in Versace neon electric blue (which goes well with the facial green tones) and Bob will wear Devil Red, which, of course, always suits (pun intended) Bob.
They head to City Hall and find signs leading them to the basement chapel located scenically just off the cafeteria. Perfect. They see several other soon-to-be-married couples also wandering around aimlessly wondering if this is the place. Bob and Steve's witnesses arrive. Lisa is dressed as a stunning German Hausfrau in a classic German dirndl and Friedemann, as a Swiss piano technician extraordinaire/lawyer. The witnesses comment about the nearly-weds' outfits: "OMG! Where did you find those?" They were amazed when Bob informed them that the suits actually came out of their personal closets and not off the racks at a costume shop.
At 3:55 p.m., suddenly Bob, Steve, Friedemann and Lisa realize, while laughing and chatting in the cafeteria, everyone else seems to have disappeared. Yikes, time to get into the chapel before they miss the wedding. The four race to the chapel door, which is locked. Damn! Bob raps loudly and yells, "Hey, wait for us!" The door opens and the scene is as bit surrealistic. A shocked mixed-race couple is holding hands under an artificial trellis and ten or so folks are glaring at Bob the Intruder. An annoyed woman, realizing that the foursome must have gotten lost on their way to the group wedding, informs Bob rather curtly that that ceremony has been moved to the auditorium upstairs! Bob, now officially a "wedding crasher," informs the others, "We've been upgraded!"
They dash off to find the auditorium, which is filled with happy couples, witnesses and friends. Not surprisingly, gay couples outnumber the straights. Some are in tuxedos; others in jeans. There is even one couple who came as a playboy bunny and Che Guevara. (Surprisingly, no Sarah Palins or Joe the Plumbers.) In charge is a county official dressed as Captain Kirk from Star Trek. Despite the expected "live long and prosper" signoff, the ceremony is surprisingly touching. Vows are exchanged. It's official: Bob and Steve are now husband and husband.
They dash out of City Hall, deciding to go to a trendy new restaurant to celebrate. Friedemann and Lisa, who are parked only a few cars away from Bob and Steve, show off their new Ultimate Driving Machine BMW. Smiles turn to frowns when Friedemann notices a parking ticket on the window. The car's front wheels are ever so slightly within a red zone that appears to have been painted solely for the purpose of raising city revenue. They decide to take the new BMW to dinner. Steve runs up a few cars to deposit a few more quarters into the meter. Amazingly, their car also has a ticket slid under the window shield wiper. Same issue with the purposeless red zone. Needless to say, hysteria breaks out as all giggle to the point of aching sides.
The foursome does make it to dinner. Gifts, hugs and marriage advice from one set of newlyweds to another are given. And a fine time is had by all. In fact the event reminds the foursome of "Sex and the City" -- The Movie, not the HBO series. Those of you who saw it will remember how exquisitely happy Carrie and Mr. Big are at their city hall civil ceremony witnessed only by a few close friends. Bob and Steve feel the same way. The very unplanned wedding turns out to be perfect in a very Bob and Steve way.
Steve ends the day as it started -- nauseated and yorking up his trendy dinner and fine squashed grape products. Well, actually, it's not exactly as he started, because he is now a legally married man!
We decide to quickly share our story, as the local paparazzi already have word. Also, we want to encourage you all to vote No on Proposition 8!
Love to you all. Equality for everyone. Happy Perfect Halloween Wedding to us!
Want to get in touch with Dr. Bob? You can reach him through his "Ask the Experts" forum, by sending a message to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation, or by leaving a comment for him below. (If it's a private message, or if it includes personal info such as your e-mail address or phone number, we won't post the comment, but we will send it along to him.)