Getting Drunk and Crying at One of Britain’s First Gay Weddings
How has it taken so long for gay wedding to become legal in the UK? Weddings are great; they’re an affirmation of our ability to love one another and a legitimate space for adults to do the Macarena. But for many, the passing of the law allowing gay couples to marry, which went into effect at midnight on Saturday, isn’t about weddings, it’s about the principle that gay people should be allowed to do everything that straight people can do—which should be a basic human right.
Sadly, it’s not. Being gay is still illegal in over 70 countries, and while the UK is making progress, a recent BBC survey found that a fifth of British people would turn down an invitation to a same-sex wedding. On Friday night, I went to one of the first gay weddings in the UK to find out what kind of fun these bigots are missing out on.
Cry-Baby of the Week
The incident: Utah allowed gay couples to start getting married.
The appropriate response: Nothing.
The actual response: A man went on hunger strike, vowing not to eat again until gays were banned from marrying.
Last month, US District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the consitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples.
Predictably, applications for marriages skyrocketed in the state, with gay couples rushing to tie the knot.
This didn’t sit too well with a 35-year-old Mormon named Trestin Meacham, who announced that he was going to go on hunger strike until the state reversed the decision.
Like many bigots, Trestin attempted to hide his intolerance behind an excuse. In a post on his blog, he explained that his objection to the judge’s decision is actually a result of it being unconstitutional, rather than his own homophobia. He wrote, “Unfortunately, the Judicial Branch of the government is more concerned with activism than it is with actually following the Constitution.”
Don’t Celebrate Gay Marriage with a Wedding of Your Own
This morning the Supreme Court issued two rulings that made gay marriage a whole lot better in this country. My friends have been texting me since the news broke, wanting to meet up tonight at The Stonewall Inn (where the gay civil rights movement started in earnest back in 1969) to celebrate the end of the Defense of Marriage Act and the law prohibiting gay couples from marrying in California. Unrestrained joy and celebrating with the community are, of course, the natural and appropriate reactions to this news.
Even Edith Windsor, the New York lesbian who took the DOMA challenge all the way to the highest court in the land, said, “I wanna go to Stonewall right now!” when she heard about the historic decision. But it’s the next thing she said that troubles me. She then called a friend and said, “Please get married right away!” Edith, thanks so much for fighting the good fight, but no.
Joyous though this occasion may be, it has led to countless gay couples dropping to their knees and popping the question as if the only way to celebrate our rights is by exercising them, and the only way we are validated is when all the straight people out there (or at least five of them wearing long black robes) tell us it’s OK. Marriage fever is even infecting straights like Kristen Bell, who re-proposed to her fiance, Dax Shepard, after the rulings came down in some sort of well-meaning but bizarre show of solidarity.
To all my homosexual brothers and sisters: I am cheering with you today, but it should be said that just because we can get married, doesn’t mean that we should. Just look at Dese’Rae Stage and Katie Marks, one of the first gay couples married in New York. “It was kind of one of those things, to be a part of history,” Stage told The Atlantic Wire about their engagement on the eve of gay marriage legalization in the Empire State. Now they are one of the first gay couples getting divorced. Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the lesbians who led the charge for marriage equality in Massachusetts, are also among the first trying to figure out how to untie that knot. Like Stage said, this is a highly emotional time, but the decisions that are made after a few too many vodka sodas at Stonewall are going to have lasting implications.
Republicans Don’t Have a Ton of Empathy for Strangers
Something inevitable happened. The Senate voted down that bipartisan plan to expand background checks for guns. And, if you take the action-packed headline of the NY Daily News as any indication, Obama is so “furious” about it that he is publicly “slamming” the Senate. Read further: Joe Biden is “on the brink of tears.” This is some dramatic stuff!
This bill was conceived in response to the mass shooting of twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut. Obama of all people should understand that even 20,000 dead children wouldn’t make a difference to the hard-liners. That is, not unless it were their 20,000 kids. Put another way, gun control in America isn’t happening unless a) Republicans learn to spawn thousands of young at a time, like fish, and b) all their Fishpublican-spawn babies are killed with guns. These conditions are both necessary and sufficient.
I’m not saying that Republicans are monsters. I’m not even saying they don’t care about other people’s kids. They probably don’t, but that’s beside the point. The point is, right-wingers of all stripes, from the feisty libertarian to the noble Santorumite, are incapable of learning from the experiences of others. They just can’t help it. Need some examples? Right this way, friends.
“God hates fa—whoa, never mind”
Last month, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced his support of equal marriage rights. Portman said in a statement, and I’m paraphrasing here, that grown-ups who are in love should be allowed to do what they want. He sounds like a pretty chill guy, right? Let’s Google him and have a look at his stellar record on LGBT rights, then. OK, now that we’ve finished doing that, let’s brush the rage-vomit off our keyboards and try to make sense of it all.
In 2011, Portman went on an antigay tirade during his commencement address at the University of Michigan law school. Instead of reading Dr. Seuss and telling those kids to wear sunscreen, this guy boldly subverted audience expectations by ranting about homosexuality for no clear reason. About a hundred law grads walked out on their own graduation ceremony in protest.
So, why the change of heart? Naturally, it’s because Portman learned his son is gay. Portman just wants his kid to have a good life, you see. That’s great and all, very touching, but don’t forget: back in Portman’s salad days of homophobia, he knew about people like his son. He just didn’t give a shit about them.
After Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?
Illustration by Alex Cook
Gay marriage is going to be legal.
After this week’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court on California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it’s unlikely that the robed elders who run our society will declare that gays have the same rights to marry that straights do all over the US, but they will probably strike down the blatantly bigoted DOMA. But no matter what the court says, the public’s broad support of letting two people who love each other being able to marry each other and get the rights that come with marriage—no matter what equipment they’ve got down there—means that sooner or later, and probably sooner, two men or two women will be able to legally wed each other. It’s taken too long, sure, but that day isn’t too far off. But if two men or two women can get married, what’s stopping two men and two women from getting hitched?
The idea that after gay marriage is legalized, polygamy will be next—and then bestiality and legal unions between lawn mowers and volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica and so on—is one of the main arguments that social conservatives trot out to “defend traditional marriage.” (It’s right up there with “think of the children!” and “the Bible says…”) Stanley Kurtz made that argument nearly ten years ago in The Weekly Standard, and it got brought up again in several briefs filed this week with the Supreme Court by anti-gay marriage advocates. It goes like this: if the purpose of marriage isn’t to produce children and traditional one-mom, one-dad homes, if it’s just a legal arrangement between folks who really like each other, what basis can there be to deny triads and quads who want legal recognition of multiple-partner marriages?
Actually, yeah—why are polyamorous marriages between consenting adults illegal?
The Red Marriage Equality Sign on Your Facebook Is Completely Useless
It’s a big week in the fight for “marriage equality,” which is what most gay activists want us to call gay marriage. Today the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that struck down the state’s law to allow Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi the right to marry each other just as Britney Spears got hitched to some guy in a drunken haze one night so many years ago. Tomorrow the Court will hear arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law signed by Bill Clinton that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Right now gay activism needs all the help it can get. But do you know what’s not helping? Changing your Facebook profile picture to a silly red and pink equal sign.
In more sad news for gay Americans waiting to have all the rights that go along with marriage and not just the ridiculously ornate parties and rituals, it looks like the court won’t issue a sweeping ruling to allow gay marriage in all 50 states. That means gay men and lesbians who call this country home will continue to be second-class citizens. Sorry to break it to everyone, but changing your little avatar isn’t doing anything to change that.
Yes, the show of support is heartwarming. It’s nice to see so many people who want their gay friends to be spoiled brides just like all their straight friends, but you’re not doing anything. This is just another form of passive activism that isn’t advancing the cause. Do you know what would be helpful? Actually picking up a sign, heading down to the Supreme Court, and joining the throngs of protesters. Do you know what would be useful? Instead of just downloading an image and clicking a few buttons, going to the website of a gay rights organization (or any gay organization for that matter) and giving them some money so they can fight for gay civil rights on your behalf. Do you know what would really matter? If you had done this back when Prop 8 was being voted on and actively lobbied everyone you know in California to vote the right way so this thing didn’t have to go to the Supreme Court in the first place.
Basically, it’s the equivalent of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day (which is only useful in identifying which drunks to avoid on the sidewalk). And this is not the right time or place for the show of support. There are only nine people, the Supreme Court Justices, who matter today or tomorrow, and their lifetime appointments mean that they’re above being prejudiced by the masses. They’re probably not even allowed on Facebook. Why don’t you hold your burst of activity for something that really matters, when the public actually has some say in what happens?
Russian Orthodox Priests Want to Take Back Alaska and Save Its Non-Gays
Back in the day (by which I mean from 1733-1867), Alaska was a Russian colonial possession. In 1867, we bought it off the Russkies for two cents an acre. That may sound like a measly sum, but in those days two cents was considered riches—you could buy a pair of Air Force 1s with it and still have enough change left over to start your own slave colony.
Anyway, last weekend, a Russian Orthodox group known as the Pchyolki called bullshit on that deal and demanded that Alaska be returned to Russia. These guys previously gained notoriety for their reaction to Pussy Riot’s controversial performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, when they produced a handy guide for any Russian Orthodox Christians unlucky enough to be accosted by blasphemers. Apparently you’re supposed to destroy their electronic equipment with holy water, spit in their faces, and keep in mind to “avoid shedding of blood in the church itself, but if the scorners are violent outside the church grounds, you shall fight back accordingly.”
Media reports suggested that the issue of gay marriage had prompted the demand to get Alaska back. Predictably, the group isn’t too happy about two guys exchanging vows and with Obama said to be considering that very act, the Pchyolki are taking preemptive action to protect the state’s Orthodox Christian community. I phoned up Nikolay Bondarenko, the Pchyolki leader, for a chat.
VICE: Hi Nikolay. Why are you questioning the legitimacy of the USA’s ownership of Alaska?
Nikolay Bondarenko: Because the original deal wasn’t done properly. Legally, the USA shouldn’t own Alaska. In the legal documents of the original deal that sold Alaska to the US government in the 1960s it specifies the terms of payment—it says that Russia will sell Alaska to America for $7.2 million and payment of the equivalent of this sum should be made by gold. But in fact the payment was made by check. Why was that? It is not known where that actual check is now, so we can’t even prove that Russians received that payment. At the time Russia and the USA were allies, so whoever was responsible for that deal must have done it on purpose.
Why do you want Alaska back?
As a human rights organization we have to think about the rights of the Russians and other Orthodox people of Alaska. Article three of the original agreement highlighted that all people living there will be treated by the government according to their traditions, beliefs, and religion, and the majority of residents were Orthodox. When Obama announced his plans to legalize same-sex marriage, we realized it will really affect the Orthodox population of Alaska and it will directly violate the agreement.
Have you wanted it back before now? What prompted you to file the lawsuit?
We could have claimed it back a few months ago; we could have claimed it back 100 years ago. The formal “trigger” was the Schneerson Library case, when, a few months ago, an American court ordered Russia to hand over the library to Hasidic jews of America with a $50,000 fine for every day it wasn’t returned. This was very outrageous and caused a lot of discussion.
How do you rate your chances of getting it back?
We have much better legal grounds to get Alaska back than they had then, so we are quite positive about our chances.
Loving Gay Couples in Vietnam
Three months ago, about a 100 bike-riding homosexuals pedaled through Hanoi in what would come to be seen as the Vietnamese capital’s first ever gay pride parade. Not too many eyebrows were raised by that, at least in our little Western corner of the world; I guess we all thought it was about time those guys on the other side finally celebrated the wonders of crossing swords. What should cause a stir is that only one day after the parade, rumors began to circulate that the Vietnamese government was considering the legalization of same-sex marriage. Considering that Vietnam is still operating under a communist regime, this is sort of newsworthy, don’t you think?
I thought so, which is why I got in touch with photographer Maika Elan, who spent last year photographing Vietnam’s gay couples in their most intimate moments for her photo series The Pink Choice. She sort of stood me up on the day of the interview, but that’s OK because she’s the sweetest Vietnamese with a mushroom haircut I’ve ever met.
VICE: Hey Maika, why did you stand me up?
Maika Elan: Hi, I’m really sorry. I got up this morning to go to the UK Embassy and sort out a visa—I’m visiting in a few days to prepare for an exhibition—and ended up spending the whole day there. Which I should have expected but anyway…
OK, I hate bureaucracy too, so I forgive you. Tell me about your project involving gay people in Vietnam. Why is that an important enough subject to photograph so extensively?
In Vietnam, there is talk of legalizing gay marriage. This would make Vietnam the first Asian country to do so, so it’s a big deal, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. People like to say they are open-minded, but they don’t act like it. For example, every time a story about a gay couple is in the press or on TV, either their faces are blurred or they pose with their backs to the camera. And those stories almost always have to do with drugs, AIDS, or some sort of sexual scandal. When it comes to movies, homosexuals are either idealized or, again, presented as sexual deviants. You never see the actual people. You don’t see that they are real people. I thought it’d be nice to change that.