Guest column / The spirit of a Westport wedding is crashed
Published 07:07 a.m., Tuesday, March 6, 2012
“Christians are upset with Starbucks for turning against God,” Steven Andrew, president of USA Christian Ministries, said. The group hopes that, with full support from Christians, Starbucks in Westport could lose up to 80 percent of its business. — Westport Patch, Feb. 2, 2012
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Because Starbucks stood up for gay marriage, a group was boycotting the Starbucks in Westport, with “full support from Christians.” Their goal: to destroy Starbuck’s business, along with the livelihood of its Westport employees.
Since when is this Christian-like behavior? Especially in these times, when the workers I see at Starbucks are often older, educated and happy to have any kind of job.
This hit close to home. On April 9, 2010, I was the witness at a same-sex wedding in Westport. The ceremony took place on the Town Hall front lawn, officiated by Mary Pugh, a justice of the peace. She had urged my friends Charlie and Tom to have the wedding on the beach, but they had no interest in that. This was to be a bare-bones affair, with no invited guests and no fanfare.
Dressed in khakis and Brooks Brothers button-down shirts, Charlie and Tom looked like the old-school, retired architects that they are. They met in Philadelphia and have been together for 35 years. Tom had been an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania but had left for graduate school at Harvard, while Charlie had completed graduate school at Penn in 1974 with my husband, Gregory.
From the moment Charlie and Tom met, it was clear they’d be together forever.
I felt the same about Gregory and me. We got married in Philadelphia in 1977 and had been married for 30 years when melanoma took his life on April 11, 2007.
During the last month of Gregory’s life, Charlie and Tom flew in from Santa Fe, where they had retired, and took the train to Westport for lunch. Gregory had lost his hair from the radiation to shrink the tumors in his brain and was wearing a headscarf. We laughed and teased one another as we’d always done, but it was different, because we knew it was our final lunch.
Charlie spoke at Gregory’s memorial at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue in New York City on June 5, 2007. Always emotional, Charlie choked up as he recalled his days in architecture school with Gregory. Over 1,000 people were there to honor my husband; he had been a partner in a global architecture firm, working on high-profile projects such as the Museum of Modern Art, and many of his colleagues and clients were there.
When Charlie called in late 2009 to ask for help in something very important, I had no idea what he’d ask. He wanted to marry Tom. On Nov. 12, 2008, it had become legal for any two people, regardless of gender, to marry in Connecticut. Charlie asked me to find out how this could be done. He sounded shaky. Tom was not as convinced they needed to do this, he confided.
Mary Pugh was an ideal choice. The staff at the Westport Town Hall, used to same-sex marriages, were incredibly kind and supportive as they congratulated the newlyweds.
I held a wedding dinner at my home in Stonybrook, a former socialist colony from the 1930s in Weston. Charlie and Tom were given the honeymoon suite that night, and we all teased them. My daughter Lili, then 16, made banners.
When I saw Charlie recently, he was trembling. He had spent a week in the hospital in Santa Fe after collapsing six months earlier. Tom slept on a cot in Charlie’s room the entire time. While tests were inconclusive, it’s clear he has Parkinson’s or something related.
Charlie and Tom are legally married in Connecticut. Should Charlie’s condition worsen, Tom has the rights of any married man. He cannot be refused admission to see Charlie in the hospital, and when the time comes, he will be able to execute Charlie’s wishes. I think Charlie feared he’d have Parkinson’s, as his mother did, and that’s why marriage to Tom was so important.
And the Christian Ministries think they have turned against God. This makes me angry and sick, that our country has come to this. I feel powerless. All I can do is continue to support the people I love and the causes I believe in and make my voice heard.
Elizabeth Titus lives in Weston and Manhattan.
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