NEW YORK – The historic weekend in the United States didn’t particularly excite the bored clerk at New York City Hall, who muttered from his little window: “We close at 3:30. You have two minutes to pay the fee or come back tomorrow.”
The Pakistani cab driver who had driven us there, who talked a lot and was much nicer than the clerk, didn’t pay any special attention to the fact that we were husband and husband, but was polite enough to turn up the air conditioner when he saw two nervous guys in suits.
Although American TV incessantly broadcast tear-jerking scenes of elderly gay couples from Alabama who after 50 years could finally get married, for New York bureaucrats it was business as usual. You took a number and waited, just like at a tax office or health care clinic.
It turns out that in the four years since New York added same-sex couples to its marriage industry, the city’s bureaucracy has had time to become indifferent. Two white gay guys in matching suits? We get it, please move along.
Actually, there were far-more colorful couples waiting in the small entrance hall. There was a skinny Jewish groom and his scandalously younger Asian bride. (“You can still see her price tag,” was one nasty comment we heard.) There was an Indian family in traditional dress that made it hard to know who were the happy couple. And some couples dared to show up in their shorts and Crocs.
Our ceremony, incidentally, lasted for two whole minutes, during which the judge yawned and we said “I do” in trembling voices, exchanged rings and kissed. “Next please,” he called out before we had closed the door.
In the nearby Italian restaurant where we had booked a romantic meal, there was no apparent excitement. “Let me do the talking,” I said to my partner, my new husband, showing the hostess the ring I was wearing. “We’ve come straight from City Hall!” I announced theatrically.
“Congratulations,” she replied in a chilly tone. “Your table isn’t ready; you can wait at the bar.” No cocktail was offered to the newlyweds, not even Bavarian cream for dessert.
We returned to the hotel by subway, and there of all places, in our wrinkled suits, straggly ties and somewhat drunken demeanor, we suddenly realized that the day’s revolutionary aspect lay in its normalcy. Nobody viewed us as a curiosity, and almost needless to say, nobody sent a homophobic remark our way.
Since New York let gays marry, we’ve met up with clerks, cab drivers and service people in the most mainstream and “straight” of situations — a wedding — and in doing so made it routine. This may be a reason for hope. With surprising ease, people get used to changes that once seemed radical, even impossible.
A few streets to the south, in Greenwich Village, the masses were celebrating near the Stonewall Inn, the bar that spawned the modern gay rights movement. The next day the photos adorned the front pages of all the newspapers, from The New York Times to the tabloids available in the subway.
Still, this city apparently doesn’t need showy parades and big gestures to declare that here love conquers all. Sometimes its pink is a bit gray, but there’s nothing more dazzling.
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