How marriage has affected gay singles in Massachusetts

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com May 17 2005 12:00 AM ET

Matt Laderer figured it was the kind of stuff straight people talk about with their moms and dads: When is the right time to get married? How do you pop the question? "I realized, I don't know that information," the 24-year-old mechanical engineer said on a recent night out with his boyfriend at Club Cafe, a gay bar in Boston's South End. "I don't know when to buy the ring." When Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage one year ago, it was hailed by gays and lesbians as a huge milestone in their struggle for acceptance. But it also added a new dimension to the gay dating scene--the pressure to get married. There has always been the option of civil commitment ceremonies, but the opportunity to get married prompted thousands of couples to exchange vows in the days and weeks after it became legal on May 17 last year. And with lawmakers preparing for a second round of debate on a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, the window of opportunity might not be open forever. The ramifications hit Mark Puleo within minutes of the first marriage licenses being issued to gay couples. He stood on the steps of Cambridge City Hall that night with his then-boyfriend, watching as other couples walked inside at the stroke of midnight to get their licenses. Then he realized: He might be proposed to. "That was weird for me, very weird," the 29-year-old said. "I did fear that in the spirit of the moment and all the excitement of the history that I could find myself being asked that question." He wasn't. That relationship ended, and Puleo is now back in the dating game. On lesbian night at Toast Lounge in Somerville, 27-year-old Sukari Neblett took a break from dancing and socializing to talk about what she's really there for: a wife. "I have no problem with proposing," said Neblett, a tour consultant. "I don't have any problems with being proposed to. I guess it depends on whoever does it first, when the time is right." Neblett hopes that time comes soon. "At this stage of my life, I'm not going to date someone [if] it's not going to go anywhere," she said. "I'm still young, but three years from now I'm going to be 30. I want kids." At a nearby booth, Noa Simons relaxed with her fiancee, Anne Conger, and their friend Natasha Williams, who is single. Simons and Conger got engaged two years ago, but the word has new meaning today. "There is a shift happening in terms of language, customs, buying rings, financing rings," said Simons, 25. "The [gay] community is adopting the language of the heterosexual community." Williams, a 25-year-old graduate student, agreed. "Before, I never heard lesbians talk about financing a ring," she said. Kristen Porter has been organizing lesbian nights at area bars for seven years. She said gay marriage has forced some couples to take their relationships more seriously. "Prior to gay marriage, women often referred to each other as 'my wife,'" the 35-year-old said. "Now, if you say 'my wife,' people say 'Oh, you got married.' It's bringing a little bit more realism to relationships." To the women at Toast, statistics from the first year of gay marriage bear out a long-held stereotype about lesbians: They jump into committed relationships faster than men. Of the more than 6,000 same-sex marriages conducted, more than two-thirds have been female couples. For Porter and others, it calls to mind a well-worn joke in the gay community: Question: What does a gay man bring to a second date? Answer: What second date? Question: What does a lesbian bring to a second date? Answer: A U-Haul. "In the entertainment industry, it's hard to keep lesbian nights going," Porter said. "We provide a place for women to meet each other. Once they meet each other, they stop going out. It's very different with gay men." Anthony Bures, founder of the national online gay dating service RequestADate.com, said he's noticed a change in personal ads by some of his Massachusetts clients. "The word 'marriage' is popping up a lot more," he said. A recent posting from a 36-year-old gay Boston man: "I consider myself husband material and would love the opportunity to share the true good things life has to offer." Back at Club Cafe, Laderer and his boyfriend of one year, 24-year-old Matt Mazer, see no reason to rush. "Maybe in three years it might be different," said Laderer. Added Mazer: "On a first date, a heterosexual couple wouldn't say, 'So, wanna marry me?'" (Ken Maguire, AP)