Long before New York State legalized gay marriage this summer, The New York Times began recognizing gay unions in their “Weddings/Celebrations” pages of the “Sunday Styles” section. The number of unions highlighted in the paper, however, has significantly increased since the Empire State legalized same-sex marriage. For those Minnesotans who are fighting for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in our state, the “Sunday Styles” section should be required reading.
Last Sunday’s featured wedding was between Jacques Beaumont and his partner of 39 years, Richard Townsend. It was an unusual wedding, but not because it was a union of two men.
Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Townsend had both been admitted to Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. Mr. Beaumont was found to be suffering from leukemia and Mr. Townsend has Parkinson’s disease. Before beginning chemotherapy for his cancer, Mr. Beaumont, age 86, and Mr. Townsend, 77, decided to get married in the patient lounge of the hospital. Together for nearly four decades, the couple realized the importance of marriage – and specifically the protections that the institution of marriage provides – especially when both men are dealing with potentially life-threatening illnesses.
The hospital provided the couple with the clothes and flowers for the occasion – matching white sweat suits and yellow rose boutonnieres. A chef in the kitchen baked a wedding cake. A niece of Mr. Beaumont’s brought rings for her two uncles to select from. And with family, friends and hospital staff looking on, Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Townsend sat next to each other in their wheelchairs, held hands and vowed to stay together “until we are parted by death.”
These are the kinds of people who will be harmed if Minnesota decides to amend our constitution to deny some of its citizens the right to marry.
In the years since six states (including our neighbor to the south, Iowa, remember) and the District of Columbia, have legalized same-sex marriage, the earth didn’t stop revolving, the sun didn’t stop rising in the morning and not a single heterosexual marriage was diminished.
I look forward to the day when the Minneapolis StarTribune will be filled with just as many notices of loving gay and lesbian couples celebrating their marriages as now fill the pages of The New York Times. It will happen, Minnesota. And won’t it be great that couples who have built a life together, won’t have to wait until they are dying to see their relationships celebrated, honored and respected.