New York gay couple can finally marry after 60 years

 

Los Angeles

After waiting for more than six decades, the groom can be forgiven a touch of last-minute nerves as he prepares to stand at the altar and solemnly utter his vows.

And so can the other groom. Richard Dorr and John Mace are today preparing to join the first wave of gay New Yorkers to take advantage of the right to tie the knot, after the state's law-makers narrowly voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

The couple, who met in the 1950s, and fell in love over a shared passion for music, spent the weekend singing duets at the piano in their apartment for the benefit of a steady trickle of reporters and television crews who came to hear their remarkable story. "I come from an Italian family, and they're the marrying kind," said Mr Mace. "So why not? Why not complete this relationship, after so many years?"

When Mr Dorr, who is 84, and Mr Mace, who is 91, first clapped eyes on each other at the nearby Juilliard School of Music, homosexuality was illegal in every US state. After struggling to ignore their mutual attraction, they embarked upon an illicit relationship which for years had to be kept secret from all but their closest friends.

At the time their love blossomed, public homophobia meant that "marriage never crossed our mind", Mr Dorr said. But he nonetheless knew that he had found his soulmate. "It was just that we had to be together," he added. "We could not stay away." The couple bore witness to New York's Stonewall riots and the subsequent birth of the gay-rights movement. They cheered in 2003, when the US Supreme Court finally struck down the last remaining anti-sodomy law, which had applied to the State of Texas.

And last Friday, 61 years after they met, they rejoiced at a vote that saw a narrow majority of state senators remove the last barrier to their enduring happiness by allowing them to formalise their relationship in the same way as their heterosexual peers.

The historic passage of New York's same-sex marriage bill occurred late on Friday night, by a 33-29 margin. Four Republican senators joined all but one Democrat in backing the new law, which will take effect in 30 days' time.

It makes New York the sixth, and by far most populous State to allow gay couples to marry, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa, plus the District of Columbia. With 19 million residents, the number of Americans who are entitled to marry a person of their own sex will more than double, overnight.

Public opinion is moving faster on gay marriage than on any other major social issue. A decade ago, roughly 60 per cent of the US population was opposed it. Now multiple polls show a narrow majority in favour. Barack Obama, who has previously said he generally supports gay rights but is opposed to the right to marry, recently revealed that his position was "evolving".

With voters under the age of 35 supporting marriage equality by a majority of more than two to one, and with opposition strongest among the eldest voters, supporters of gay marriage are publicly predicting that same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in every US state within a decade.

The most likely way for that to happen would be for a test case on the issue to reach the US Supreme Court, where a decision will affect every US State, including places such as Mississippi, where roughly 85 per cent of residents remain hostile to gay marriage. One case, involving gay marriage in California, is thought by legal experts to be between two and four years away from such a hearing.

Saying he was looking forward to a quiet ceremony ("nothing fancy; just a couple of witnesses and a justice of the peace") Mr Dorr said he hoped the changing nature of the debate means future couples will have an easier time following their heart.

"The next generation deserves better than we had," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'