When Michael Gottlieb ’00 LAW ’06 and Ari Shapiro ’00 were married at San Francisco City Hall Feb. 27, they encountered no angry protestors and no long lines. They did, however, receive an information packet about birth control before they were given their license.
Although more and more counties across the nation are performing marriage for same-sex partners, these unions are still a statement, blurring the personal and the political. And Yalies, no strangers to progressive causes, are not content to stay out of the debate.
Gottlieb said he and Shapiro had been considering marriage for most of their five years together and decided to get married in San Francisco as soon as they heard of the first same-sex marriage there on Feb. 12.
“We originally wanted to have an unofficial ceremony with our families, friends and rabbis after I graduate law school,” Gottlieb said. “Then, after attending a panel in January with a number of gay organizations, I was so moved by the issue of gay marriage, I called Ari and said, ‘Let’s get married this summer in Massachusetts.’ But then Feb. 12 happened.”
Gottlieb, a San Francisco native and Davenport College freshman counselor, said he spent only five hours in San Francisco after flying out for the ceremony, which members of both partners’ families attended. Gottlieb said both of their families and friends have been supportive; his co-freshman counselors even decorated his door with lights and a “just married” sign.
“I really haven’t encountered much negativity,” Gottlieb said. “Though when I bought the wedding rings in New Haven and asked for two men’s rings, the guy gave me a funny look.”
Gottlieb said the atmosphere in San Francisco was warm, with other couples waiting to marry — and even strangers on the street — offering congratulations.
“People from all over the world had sent flowers to City Hall and there were entire tables covered by them,” Gottlieb said. “Cabbies were giving out free rides for people going to get married. It was just tremendous.”
Another Yale couple, Amy Zimmerman ’94 and Tanya Wexler ’92, said they have been planning to get married in Massachusetts this May, ever since the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that a ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Zimmerman and Wexler met at Yale in 1990 through the a cappella group Mixed Company. They have been together for nearly 14 years and have three children. The couple, which lives in New York City, is hopeful its marriage license from Massachusetts will be recognized under New York law.
“We are going to get married in Massachusetts the very first day it is allowed,” Zimmerman said. “People are entitled to their beliefs about gay marriages, but to us, this is an issue of civil rights.”
A friend of Shapiro and Gottlieb, Adam Sofen LAW ’05, said a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage — such as the one proposed by President George W. Bush ’68 last month — would signal that gays are second-class citizens.
“In polls, younger people support gay marriage by a solid majority, so a constitutional amendment would be a terrible idea with public opinion changing so quickly,” Sofen said. “Mike and Ari are the first of my friends to get married and I’m thrilled for them. This movement is even more exciting when it is your friends in the front lines.”
Some at Yale object to the marriages. Courtney Amos ’06, a member of the Yale Christian Fellowship, said she does not support same-sex marriages because the Bible says homosexuality is sinful.
“I have grown up under the teaching that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that you can love the person, and still hate the sin,” Amos said. “I am highly opposed to homosexuality, and though it is not out of a personal attack against homosexuals, I agree wholeheartedly with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages.”
Matt Ciesielski ’06 said he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages because he worries that if some states allow these marriages, other states will have to recognize the marriages regardless of their own laws.
“I wouldn’t normally support a change in the constitution, but it might be necessary if other states are forced to accept gay marriages,” Ciesielski said. “I believe in the sanctity of marriage and that its relation to procreation gives a special place to male-female relationships.”
Gottlieb and Shapiro plan to marry again in Massachusetts if their San Francisco license falls through. They are also planning to have an unofficial summer celebration in 2005 with family, friends and their rabbis.
“Part of me doesn’t want our marriage to be a political statement, but on the other hand, of course it is,” Gottlieb said. “It was partly civil disobedience to just get our license and run, but at the same time, it seemed incredibly normal. I hadn’t expected to cry.”