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Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays - Off-Broadway

An array of playwrights explore one of the defining issues of our day.

Standing on Ceremony Scribe Mo Gaffney on Officiating at Weddings and the Importance of Marriage Equality

Standing on Ceremony Scribe Mo Gaffney on Officiating at Weddings and the Importance of Marriage Equality
Mo Gaffney
Being gay isn’t a choice, but being married should be.

About the Author: 
Comedian, playwright and actress Mo Gaffney has appeared in three off-Broadway shows opposite her friend and writing partner Kathy Najimy, including The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives. She has also made her mark on TV and film in projects including Drop Dead Gorgeous, Absolutely Fabulous, That '70s Show and Mad About You. Gaffney is one of eight contributing playwrights to off-Broadway's Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, which ends its run at the Minetta Lane Theatre on December 18. Below the Los Angeles-based pro recounts how officiating at her friends' marriage ceremonies inspired her to write her piece "Traditional Wedding," which follows a lesbian couple (played by Polly Draper and Tony winner Beth Leavel) as they discuss plans for their ideal nuptials.

When my friend, director Stuart Ross, asked me if I would like to write a piece for Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays I, of course, said, “Yes!” I had done the reading of the show in Los Angeles and I absolutely loved it. I have officiated at a few gay weddings already and have a couple more planned for the coming year. I performed the ceremony for my friends Adele and Jennifer three years ago, during the window of time gays could get married in California. I was able to marry them because I’d gotten my certificate from When I went to their house to talk about the ceremony, we all looked at each other and burst into tears.

Now, you should know that I’ve always thought that marriage was, I don’t know, kind of silly. Regardless of who wanted to do it. But there I was, planning a LEGAL marriage between two women. It was momentous, whether you think marriage is important or not. Not because marriage is sacred or for any religious reason, but because, like it or not, if that union between those two women or two men is LEGAL, then everything every gay man or woman suffered through trying to get recognition for the rightness and normalcy of homosexuality wasn’t in vain.

Adele and Jennifer's wedding ended up being kind of traditional: white dresses, flowers, rings, vows, family, food, etc. It WAS momentous. Certainly to them. And to me. And it should be to everybody who knows or cares about human rights. There are gay people who are LEGALLY married. If my Uncle Edward and Uncle Arthur were alive today, they would be delighted and very probably married. They lived together for 30 years until Uncle Arthur died. They were the first gay people I ever knew. As a child I asked my grandmother (Arthur’s sister-in-law) why they were roommates and not married. She said to me, “It’s like they are married, to each other.” I was about 10 years-old at the time and simply accepted what she said. I only found out later that this was supposed to be “wrong” somehow.

From now on, children will see that being a gay married couple is just another possibility in life. Like being a straight married couple. That’s why fighting for marriage equality is important. For the couple who get married, certainly, but also for the kids, gay and straight, who will grow up in a world where gay people get married too. The argument used by the proponents of Prop. 8 (this was the proposition, that passed, stating that legal marriage is only between a man and a woman) here in California, was that children would be taught in school that “same-sex marriage is just as good as traditional marriage.” This horrified them.

The funny thing is that this is the very argument I would use AGAINST Prop. 8. I would say that children need to be taught that the love between same-sex couples should be respected as much as love between different-sex couples. I guess that’s why the Mormons (who were big financial supporters of Prop. 8) haven’t begged me to join their church.

My next wedding is in May, when I will officiate for Bryan and Carl’s nuptials. This wedding WON’T be traditional. I asked Carl what kind of ceremony he wanted, and he basically said “Not a hetero one!” So, now you know where I got the inspiration for my piece, “A Traditional Wedding”! A lot of gay people want to re-invent the wedding, and I say, “Absolutely!” Other gay people want the white dresses and the flowers and the chuppah and I say, “Mazel Tov!” Still other gay people think weddings are silly or a hetero construct and will never get married and I say, “Whatever makes you happy!”

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Being gay isn’t a choice, but being married should be.

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