In 2002, the New York Times began running same-sex wedding announcements. To reach the glory land of the Sunday Styles wedding pages, the gays had to accomplish one last thing: become utterly and totally boring.
There was this whole dull-is-beautiful movement going on in the early 21st century, so much so that it became a punch line to a joke gays told while living the lameness—pushing strollers in the Target parking lot, comparing paint chips at Lowe's; going on gay family cruises with Rosie O'Donnell's wife and kids; going to bed at 9:00 p.m.
Never mind the frazzly, voracious A-gay circuit queens haunting the methy, dark places of double-income-no-kids copper pipe dreams, and damn the cosmopolitans! Some merely wanted the Barbie factor of wedding pages. Gay-rights groups were in meetings with the Times' publisher and editor for a couple of years, secretly hammering out some sort of dullness accord, which was finally reached in August 2002. The publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., was quoted as saying that the decision was difficult—he didn't want the paper to be too far ahead of society's acceptance curve, but a worse fate, he reasoned, was to be hopelessly behind it.
The Times, when it decided to add a sprinkling of gayness to the wedding pages (in separate-but-equal but wholly accurate reporting, it calls civil unions, commitment ceremonies, and the like "celebrations"), joined about 50 other dailies that had already decided to do it. There were two chief differences, however, that made the Times such a heralded victory: First, it's the goddamn fucking New York Times, and, second, the Times is one of the last newspapers in America that still compiles wedding announcements through the newsroom—as in written and edited by journalists—rather than selling the wedding space as advertising produced by self-copywriting bridezillas. This meant gays had to pass additional, mysterious, editorial sniff tests of social status from upturned noses, and that's the real challenge isn't it? To have one's conspicuous joy, advanced degrees, and occupations measure up with the rest of them?
The first couple to get there, by all rights, should have been lesbian, because society likes lesbian marriages just a little bit more. But it was two men, Daniel Gross and Steven Goldstein, published on Sunday, September 1, 2002, and they could not have been more ready-made for the job: Goldstein was a 40-year-old Manhattan political consultant, originally from Queens, with degrees from Brandeis, Harvard, and Columbia. Gross was 32, a native of Chicago, and a VP at GE Financial in Stamford, Connecticut, with an MBA from Yale. They met cute-ish in 1992 through an old-fashioned, pre-internet, personal ad in the Washington, D.C. City Paper ("Nice Jewish boy, 5 feet 8 inches, 22, funny, well read, dilettantish, self-deprecating—the kind of boy Mom fantasized about..."). They exchanged vows twice—at a B&B in Vermont, and, with a rabbi present, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal. The couple said the terrorist attacks of 2001 had speeded their decision to have a commitment ceremony. Note the operative words here: political, Manhattan, consultant, Queens, Brandeis, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, vice-president, financial, Connecticut, nice Jewish boy, rabbi, September 11...
This was seven months before anyone would know about Jayson Blair; otherwise I would have accused the Times of making this couple and their story up. As the first gays to make the Mergers & Acquisitions page—that's what Carrie Bradshaw, the fictional zeitgeist sex columnist, called it—Gross and Goldstein seemed to possess PhDs in perfect gayness, and came across just a little too-too. That was the era. These were our new American Joneses. It felt like 12th of Never had at last arrived and drag bars soon disappeared to be replaced by new condo loft developments, unleashing a raft of stainless-steel-appliance and granite-countertop inadequacy issues. Stuff, so much stuff. The point turned out not to be how to convince state lawmakers to change the rules. The laws still haven't really changed. The point seemed to be to see if you can measure up, on those happily-ever-after style and food and home-design pages that follow.