Bloomberg To Bind Gay Couple In Matrimony

John Feinblatt, upper left, and Jonathan Mintz, bottom center, with their daughters Maeve and Georgia.

hide captionJohn Feinblatt, upper left, and Jonathan Mintz, bottom center, with their daughters Maeve and Georgia.

Courtesy of Jonathan Mintz

Gay couples in N.Y. can be legally wed starting this Sunday. Numerous applications for same-sex marriages poured in, and N.Y. City Hall employed a system to randomly pick who could wed on Sunday. Mayor Bloomberg is even officiating the ceremony between John Feinblatt, his chief policy advisor, and Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner of N.Y.'s Department of Consumer Affairs. Host Michel Martin speaks with Feinblatt and Mintz about what the new law means to them and their daughters.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: Come Sunday, gay and lesbian couples plan to wed across New York State, from Niagara Falls to Long Island. New York became the latest and the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage last month. New York City alone has received more than 2,500 applications from same-sex couples wanting to get married on Sunday. So many that the city had to cap the number of couples it would agree to wed on that day. And City Hall implemented a lottery system to randomly pick the people who will be able to get married on the first day.

But the mayor of New York City made one exception - the wedding of John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz. Mr. Feinblatt is Mayor Michael Bloomberg's chief policy advisor. Mr. Mintz is commissioner of the city's Department of Consumer Affairs. And the mayor himself will officiate for the happy couple. And they are with us now to tell us how the plans are going and what the new law means to them. Welcome. Congratulations. Best wishes to you both.

JOHN FEINBLATT: Thanks.

JONATHAN MINTZ: Thanks very much.

MARTIN: So were you planning to get married on Sunday anyway or was the mayor's involvement kind of the push?

FEINBLATT: Well, our girls really wanted us to get married. But Sunday probably not. The mayor's offer was a real push. And for anybody who's listening, let me tell you - 17-plus days to plan a wedding, not ideal.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Yes. See, normally when you plan a hurry-up wedding, you're eloping.

MINTZ: Right, exactly.

FEINBLATT: We're planning to write a book about it.

MARTIN: Well...

FEINBLATT: How to get married in 17 days.

MARTIN: In 17 days.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MINTZ: Right.

MARTIN: And you mentioned your girls.

MINTZ: And not break up in the process.

MARTIN: And not break up in the process.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You mentioned the girls. You're raising two girls together, six and eight years old. What do they think about all this?

FEINBLATT: They're over the moon.

MINTZ: Our daughters are very excited, eight and six. What could be better? They're ring shopping with us and trying on a million dresses and picking up flowers and most importantly coming with us to the caterers for the tasting, so they're having a blast.

MARTIN: What do they think it means? What have you explained to them about what it means? Because you're already a family.

MINTZ: You know, I think what it means is that our family is just like every other family and that the girls see their dads being able to marry the way all their friends are able to marry, and to be able to do it where they live, which was very important to us and why we waited for New York to get this legal.

MARTIN: In fact, that was going to be my next question. I was going to ask - you could have gotten married in Massachusetts or the District of Columbia for that matter. Was it particularly important to get married in New York State?

FEINBLATT: It was. You know, my stepmother has a beautiful house overlooking the bay on Cape Cod. And we thought about it a couple of times, but we're New Yorkers. You know, we both work for the city of New York. We chose to live and raise our kids in the city of New York. We didn't want to have to flee our home to go get married. We wanted to do it and be proud of our state and make our family celebrate with New York, and so this is sort of a perfect ending to that story.

MARTIN: You mentioned that you weren't planning to get married on Sunday. Especially, you know, planning a wedding in, you know, less than three weeks. So did the mayor's involvement push that along or how did that come about?

FEINBLATT: We were in the bullpen where the mayor works and where I work not very far from him. And he stood up and motioned to me and said let's talk, and we walked over to a little area in the bullpen where you can get coffee. And he said, look, I don't know if you and Jonathan are planning to get married but if you are, I would love to officiate. Well, I was tempted to make a unilateral decision and just say yes on the spot. I realized that with matters of marriage you're probably supposed to consult your partner, so I did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Good man.

MINTZ: Which, by the way, he was correct.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MINTZ: I appreciated being involved in the ultimate decision.

MARTIN: Good man. You know, I don't know if there was any premarital counseling involved, but if there was, excellent work.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: The mayor, as I understand it, has only officiated at two other weddings. The prior ones was his daughters and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. So a sensitive question, but do you think he'll be ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEINBLATT: Yeah. Yeah. I think he'll be ready. I think he'll be ready.

MARTIN: You think he's got it together?

FEINBLATT: I'm pretty confident.

MINTZ: I would also like to note that both of those marriages are intact, so we're feeling good about the odds.

FEINBLATT: The mayor really has been extraordinary on this issue. And as you may know, he traveled to Albany several times and he raised funds to push for marriage equality. He gave an extraordinary speech at Cooper Union on marriage equality that Jonathan and I took Maeve to. He's really been our personal hero on this issue and I think what he's, you know, said is that this is a civil rights issue and that this is about the fundamentals of America and the fundamentals of New York. And our country and our city are based on freedom and it's just a great privilege to work with him on this issue and then even a greater privilege for him to marry us with our girls standing right by there.

You know, kids have this primitive but pretty sophisticated sense of social justice and they know when their families are different from other families and they notice those kinds of the differences. And so this has been a great journey for our family and we're thrilled to be able to celebrate our relationship, our kids, and what this means for New York State.

MARTIN: We're talking with John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz. They will be among the first same-sex couples to get married in New York this Sunday. Their wedding will be officiated by their boss, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So here's a sensitive question and maybe, Jonathan, maybe you'll take this one. There are those who still don't agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. In fact, there was apparently a clerk in one jurisdiction upstate who resigned rather than issue marriage licenses because she felt so strongly about it. Do you discuss that or how do you discuss that if you do?

MINTZ: Well, I mean I think America is evolving on this issue. I think people evolve on all sorts of civil rights issues. You know, there was a time where I think it was a difficult transition in America to, you know, to have people of different color sharing a water fountain, for goodness sake, and you look back now and you can't imagine that there were people, let alone elected officials, who would ever step forward and defend that sort of thing. And the same will be true of this.

Our girls understand, particularly our older daughter Maeve, who's eight, they understand that there are equality issues and those equality issues hit very close to home. But there's been such an outpouring of love and support and excitement and we're so excited and they're so excited. And the point in some part of doing our wedding in this semi-public way is to really make clear to our daughters that New York is celebrating families like ours and our ability to be loving and equal.

MARTIN: There are some gay people who told us, talked about this publicly, that they feel that being gay is special. And that being - do you know what I'm saying? Are you familiar with this argument?

MINTZ: I understand.

MARTIN: That being gay is special and being married then kind of just domesticates and makes gay people like everybody else.

MINTZ: Well, my own view has evolved since we've had children. It has become increasingly clear to me that equality is the most special thing about the fundamentals of being a member of society. And I do understand how people feel, but since we've become parents it's become completely clear to us that at least for our family you don't want them to feel second-class.

MARTIN: So any butterflies? Any last-minute nerves? Any cold feet? You can tell me. You can share.

FEINBLATT: Well, we've gotten over the fights about whether Aunt Matilda is actually going to be invited or not.

(SOUNDBITE OF GASPING)

FEINBLATT: And...

MINTZ: We're down to phone calls to mothers and stepmothers about wrist corsages, so I think we're doing pretty well.

MARTIN: You're doing okay? What are the colors? What are your colors?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MINTZ: You know, these are questions men don't usually prepare themselves in life to answer.

MARTIN: What?

MINTZ: I'm asking my mother things like, do you want to blow out of your hair, and I don't even know what that means. So...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What about the girls?

FEINBLATT: They did all the dress shopping with us. They even helped us pick out our rings. They've been to the caterers. They've designed the desserts. They've been, you know, full partners.

MINTZ: Yeah.

FEINBLATT: I think if you ask them, they would say that they've been really steering this ship.

MARTIN: I'm not surprised.

FEINBLATT: But you've got to have some surprises. We can't give it away. We've learned that about weddings.

MARTIN: Yes, you can.

FEINBLATT: Some of it is about surprise.

MARTIN: But what about the cake? Did you have any fights over anything? Did you have any fights over anything?

FEINBLATT: The kids were in charge of - fights? You must be kidding.

MINTZ: I don't know what you're talking about.

FEINBLATT: What's that mean?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, okay. And here's a sensitive question: Is there a groom's cake? And if so, who gets to pick it?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEINBLATT: Oh, you're just going to have to wait and see.

MARTIN: Okay.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: John Feinblatt is chief policy advisor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Jonathan Mintz is commissioner of the city's Department of Consumer Affairs. They are getting married on Sunday and they are both with us from NPR New York. I don't know how you had time for this interview, but thank you.

FEINBLATT: Thank you.

MINTZ: It's our pleasure. Thanks.

MARTIN: And that is our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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