A little less than a year after gay marriage was legalized in New York state, Christine Quinn, New York City Council speaker, will wed her girlfriend, Kim M. Catullo. The date is set for May 19, the location arranged at the Highline Stages at 440 West 15th Street; the invitations have been sent; the jewelry and hair and outfits and caterer have been determined. As in, it's a wedding like any other wedding. Except, it's a gay wedding, and Quinn is, quite possibly, going to make a run for New York City Mayor.
The New York Times' Kate Taylor explains some of the ramifications of the wedding-as-political-event (not a new concept in itself, but a concept made new again when we're talking about two wives able to become so through a new law, which one of those wives, a politician herself, strongly advocated for). Though Taylor's article is titled "For Quinn Wedding, Politics on the Side," this event is clearly a hybrid of the personal and political, which is not unusual, even when discussing the straight marriages of politicians. But Quinn isn't acknowledging the political element, per The Times,
“There’s really not a political implication to this for me as it relates to electoral politics,” Ms. Quinn said in an interview. “We’re trying to make it really a day, a night that’s about friends and family and us.”
As with all weddings, there's the challenge and desire to make it a day to remember, to make it perfect, to make sure everyone has a good time (and also, proceeding that, to make sure the decision is the right one). There's that traditional "being a bride" motiff that appears here—Quinn has gone on a diet. There's also the celebrity "being a bride" motiff: Quinn's been profiled in The New Yorker and Elle, Taylor writes, with a photo shoot on the Brooklyn Bridge and an interview in which she talks engagement rings. There are also those expected conversations people love to have about those who will marry, like how they met (a set-up by friends!) and what brought them together emotionally (losing their moms at a young age, closeness with their dads, who happen to be Roman Catholic but accept them as gay daughters): "The couple wanted to be able to get married, Ms. Quinn often said, while their fathers were still alive and could attend the wedding," writes Taylor.
These are not things, you imagine, that a 45-year-old New York City Council Speaker would otherwise discuss with regard to her political life, or among her typical media circles. But these are important things to talk about, politically and otherwise, because Quinn's marriage is not purely a civilian one. While efforts at privacy are being made (there will be no news media at the event and details have been guarded, though some appear in The New York Times and elsewhere), the save-the-date was released and photos will be as well, after the wedding. But let's be honest: This is not just a wedding. It's a groundbreaking political wedding of a person who aspires to higher office. So there's more than face value here. As there always is at weddings:
Longtime observers of the New York political scene said the wedding could benefit Ms. Quinn, as it would give her an early chance to share her story with voters and to underline the historic nature of her candidacy — if elected she would be the first woman and the first openly gay person to lead the nation’s largest city. The wedding will also offer Ms. Quinn, sometimes portrayed as a brash and sharp-tongued leader, a chance to soften her image.
“She comes over, typically, as a rather tough politician,” said Kenneth Sherill, a professor of political science at Hunter College. He said the wedding could be a humanizing moment for Ms. Quinn.
“It puts a warm and loving face on a politician, at a time when we don’t think of politicians that way,” he said.
Of course, if Quinn appears to be using her wedding as an early move in her run for mayor, that's not going to be looked upon kindly, either. But in this talk of the politicization of a wedding, you've got to cast Quinn and her upcoming marriage against the historical backdrop of political men marrying women (Jackies not Marilyns, or Callistas not Jackies) to further their political endeavors, abstractly if not specifically. And then, there are the men who notably don't marry women and don't suffer from that in their political endeavors, like Andrew Cuomo and Mike Bloomberg.
Note, as Taylor writes:
Other likely candidates for mayor are increasingly calling attention to their own personal stories. All of the other expected candidates are married men with children, and two of those candidates’ wives, Elyse Buxbaum, the wife of the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, and Chirlane McCray, the wife of the public advocate, Bill de Blasio, have recently taken to Twitter, where they have posted pictures of, and news about, their children. (Mr. Stringer and Ms. Buxbaum married in Connecticut in 2010 to protest that at the time same-sex couples could not marry in New York.)
We haven't historically been all that great at separating our politicians' marital lives from their political lives: Look at Romney and Ann, or Obama and Michelle. Then, of course, there was the famous "two for the price of one" example of Bill and Hill. These couplings have been important parts of an overall campaign, even if they are also good marriages (which, truly, we don't know, do we? We only know what we're shown, and sometimes, what we want to see). So to judge Quinn for even remotely politicizing her marriage is hypocritical at best, not that that stops anyone.
Beyond the question of whether she's using her marriage to boost her political standing, there's the question of whether her marriage will harm her politically. Remember, not everyone, even in New York City, is "socially progressive"—"'We don’t know what the reaction will be, because we’ve never had something like this,' said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant," to the Times. As this writer learned while covering the gay marriage of Mayor Bloomberg aides Jonathan Mintz and John Feinblatt last year, there are handfuls of folks willing to stand outside, across the street from a wedding location, and protest that marriage between two people of the same sex is akin to a man marrying a dog. Which is something those of us who aren't in politics generally don't generally have to face in the planning of our own weddings. Of course, those protesters likely wouldn't vote Democrat anyway—and they always ignore the registry.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.