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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Contact Centre Advisor

£19500 - £21500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading children's chariti...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor