Friday, July 24, 2009
Stephan and Patrick Are Getting Married
Stephan Hengst and Patrick Decker are in love and they're committed to each other, but they're not allowed to get married in New York. Lots of gay couples are in the same boat. Some of them go to other states to get married because New York, ironically, recognizes same sex marriages from other states but still doesn't allow it within its borders.
They promised each other they wouldn't get married until it was legal in New York and it looked like it might happen this year. Then the steering wheel fell off the Senate and legislators spent the month of June staring at each other from opposite sides of the road. Marriage equality became a political hot potato: "I'll give you this if you'll give me that." So despite the fact that the governor says he's in favor of legalizing gay marriage, despite the fact that the Assembly has twice voted for marriage equality, it's still illegal. Which should give Senators pause, as the gay voting block is a very active and well funded one and trust me, Senators, they're angry.
Stephan and Patrick went to dinner at a local restaurant and the conversation somehow came around to I Do I Amsterdam. It's a contest sponsored by the city of Amsterdam - yes, THAT Amsterdam - to show support for equal marriage rights in New York. Why are they getting involved? Henry Hudson, a fine Dutch boy, sailed up the Hudson River for the first time 400 years ago and New York's making a big hullabaloo about it this year. So Amsterdam thought it might be appropriate to nudge the grandkids and remind them that being tolerant doesn't bring on the end of civilization. Amsterdam's still there.
So the contest is this: five couples who meet the incredibly strict criteria will be invited to be married on a wedding barge on a canal in Amstersdam on August first. Four of those couples live in Holland. The fifth couple is Stephan and Patrick.
The rules were that one partner had to be Dutch and the other had to be a New Yorker. And, of course, they had to be gay. Stephan was born in Holland, though he's live in the US all of his life. Patrick was born in New York. Patrick said their friends laughed when they heard they'd won.
"Who else could win? Who?"
So they're pulling together everything necessary for a whirlwind, last minute European trip and they're getting married on August first. The ceremony will be streamed live on the Internet so their friends in the US can see it.
Why did they change their minds about waiting for it to be legal in New York? Stephan says he sees this as an opportunity to bring the issue back to the public's attention and show it for what it is; not an attempt to undermine marriage, but an effort to give an entire segment of the population the same rights as the rest. Marriage offers benefits that are far different from civil unions, including health benefits, the right to file taxes jointly, an unquestioned right to be involved in legal decisions regarding your spouse. Rules regarding gay marriage right now are a hodge podge...in one state you can do this, in another you can't. In one state your civil union is considered a marriage, in another it means nothing.
Stephan and Patrick are sweet guys. They love each other. They're going to make it a legal commitment. They'll be married when they come home from Europe. And if New York ever makes it legal, they say they'll renew their vows in a state that finally welcomes them.
Hear the story on Northeast Public Radio