NYT 's Big Gay Celebration

By Charles Kaiser

Originally published on Advocate.com June 02 2009 12:00 AM ET

On September 1, 2002,
The New York Times

began a quiet revolution when it reported that Daniel Andrew
Gross and Steven Goldstein had entered into a
civil union in Vermont, before traveling to the Musée des Beaux-Arts of
Montreal to exchange Jewish vows in front of Rabbi David M.
Steinberg.

This was the first
same-sex wedding announcement in
The New York Times.

What seemed like
something stunningly new back then has now become utterly
routine. Just two years after that first announcement, the Gay
and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation counted 504 newspapers
around the country that had followed the example of the
Times,

including six in Alabama and 31 in Texas that had started to
print stories about same-sex marriages.

The
Times

itself has printed more than 300 same-sex wedding or commitment
announcements in the last seven years. To celebrate this
achievement as New York celebrates the 40th anniversary of the
Stonewall uprising, Tom Kulaga, executive creative director of
marketing at the
Times,

decided to track down as many of those couples as he could to
invite them to a cocktail party that will take place Tuesday
evening at the newspaper's headquarters on Eighth
Avenue in Manhattan.

"It was a real
detective effort to locate these couples," Kulaga tells
The Advocate

. "Social networking played a huge role [Facebook, Twitter,
and Six Degrees of GLBT Separation], and a volunteer team of
about a dozen members of our GLBT employee group pitched in to
try and locate individuals and invite them personally. So, all
told, we feel very proud that we received acceptances from 75
couples."

Leslie Miller and
Alicia Salzer -- both medical doctors -- were the first two
women to
announce their marriage in the
Times

... and that led them to the fathers of their first child.

Anthony Brown and Gary
Spino (who also got
a story about their wedding

in the
Times

) are involved in an organization called
The Wedding Party, which holds mass commitment ceremonies every year on the day
of the gay pride parade in Manhattan. When they saw the story
about Miller and Salzer in the
Times

, they contacted the women to ask them to speak at one of their
events.

Andrew Lippa and David Bloch X390 (MAYA MYERS) | ADVOCATE.COM

"We spoke there and
became friends with them, and we explained that we wanted to
have a child, and we wanted that child to have the benefit of
knowing who the biological link was," Salzer says. "So at
some point in our friendship they offered to be donors to us,
and they're both dads to our Piper. And we're pursuing having
another child. As far as Piper is concerned, she has two moms
and two dads, and she knows their extended families. She has
seven grandparents, and I can travel across the country to see
relatives I don't even know -- and there's my daughter on their
fridge!"

Andrew Lippa and David
Bloch got married in California last summer, during that narrow
window when same-sex marriage was legal there.

"It was important to
me because it felt like an opportunity to so something as
simple and as beautiful as announcing your wedding like
straight people have been able to do for centuries," says
Lippa, a composer. "For gay people it's a big statement. But
[in a way] it was the opposite -- it was two people who love
each other being supported by our community -- and the
Times

is our community newspaper. I think collectively we got 250
e-mails" after
the announcement

appeared.

Initially, David was
less enthusiastic about the announcement than Andrew.

"It was important to
Andrew," David says.

But then they both
consented to
a video, which the
Times

posted on its website, using a song Andrew had written as the
soundtrack.

"David appeared like
from around the corner, and it was like music and angels and
harps and singing and glitter," Andrew gushes on camera.
"It really was!"

Then he adds, "I'm a
little grand. Andrew is a little shy."

Back in the 1970s and
'80s, when Abe Rosenthal was its top editor and Arthur
"Punch" Sulzberger was its publisher, the
Times

was considered by many to be one of the most homophobic
institutions in America.

Alan Van Capelle and Matthew Morningstar Xlrg (courtesy) | advocate.com

All that changed very
dramatically when Arthur Sulzberger Jr. succeeded his father as
publisher in 1992 and as chairman of the New York Times Co. in
1997. Sulzberger Jr. made it clear to everyone that he would
not tolerate an iota of prejudice against the paper's LGBT
employees, and the decision to start running same-sex wedding
announcements was the culmination of that philosophy.

Kim Severson is a
Times

food reporter who announced her commitment to her partner,
Katia Hetter,
in the paper

three years ago.

The first thing
Severson reads every morning is the sports section, but on
Sundays the first thing Katia reads are the wedding
announcements ("as if they were the sports section,"
Severson says) -- so the announcement was most important to
Hetter. But Severson concedes, "The
Times

announcement added a level of legitimacy that would have been
missing -- there's nothing else like a wedding announcement in
the
Times.

"

And there's nothing
quite like the reach of the
Times,

either. When Laurence Diamond married Grant Schneider, the
five-paragraph announcement

caught the attention of someone Schneider hadn't heard from
since they were in 10th grade biology together. "I grew up in
a small town in Georgia," Schneider says. "The guy
confessed to me that he had gotten married, but then he got
divorced -- and now he's with a man."

Alan Van Capelle,
executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, and his
partner, Matthew Morningstar, were both 32 when their
commitment ceremony was written about in the paper.

Morningstar was a
graduate of Columbia College and Cornell Law School, while Van
Capelle got his BA from Queens College in New York City.

"The
Times

demanded to see copies of Matthew's diplomas," says Van
Capelle. "But they never asked for mine. I guess they thought
no one would lie about going to Queens College."

Van Capelle says the
Times

didn't care that "one of my grandfathers was one of the last
Dutch governor-generals of Indonesia or that my father was a
vice president of his international union." But the fact that
his partner's mother was "retired as the first vice
chairwoman of the women's committee of the National Symphony
Orchestra in Washington" was deemed newsworthy by the paper
of record.

The night before their
wedding, Van Capelle and Morningstar asked 50 of their guests
to come to the Gay Men's Health Crisis to serve food and make
safe-sex kits. "It was one of the best parts of the entire
weekend," Van Capelle remembers. "Because there at the
table were a priest and a nun. And suddenly our 7-year old
niece starts jumping up and down saying, "I ran out of the
blue ones!'"

"And the nun says,
'Don't worry, dear -- use the purple ones. They're lubricated,
but they do the same thing!'"

"Those are the
moments I'll remember," says Van Capelle.