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I Do, I Don't 

Virtual vows rev up same-sex marriage debate

Wednesday, Nov 3 1999
"IF CARNIE WILSON COULD GET STAPLED online," joked Jeffrey Newman, 32, president of the Gay Financial Network (www.gfn.com) and CEO of out.com, Out Publishing's Web arm, "I figured we could get married."

So spake Newman on the eve of his historic online marriage to partner Jeffrey Parker, 31, a men's-accessories designer. However unconventional in concept, the October 16 cyber-ceremony, live from Tribeca, turned out to be a by-the-book, traditional Jewish wedding, right out of Fiddler on the Roof: a Rabbi officiating (the same one who married Joan's daughter, Melissa Rivers, if you care), the seven Jewish blessings, and the breaking of the glass. The gayest touch was diva Jennifer Holliday singing "I'll Cover You" from Rent as the Armani-clad grooms nuzzled lovingly. Gushy interviews with family members and guests followed: Newman's mom was "delighted"; his sister was "proud and supportive"; Dad was glad his boy married someone whose name he could remember.

Vicious prenuptial threats ("Faggots should die," read one e-mail) failed to materialize into security problems; the worst hangup was an intermittent Internet traffic jam, organizers report. Presented live on out.com, the broadcast, online through mid-November for those who missed it, has attracted more than 200,000 virtual friends of the groom and groom.

While same-sex marriage continues to be controversial, even among gays and lesbians, Newman's idea of marrying the man of his dreams online was "not political," he insisted. "We wanted to put a human face on it."

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Here in California, Tom Henning, 34, of San Francisco, and his brother John, 37, of Los Angeles, are mounting a frankly political online effort to legitimize same-sex marriage. The Hennings hope to collect 1 million signatures at www.samesexmarriage.org to qualify a constitutional amendment for the November ballot to legalize gay marriage in California. That amendment would be at odds with a measure from state Senator Pete Knight (R-Palmdale) banning all same-sex marriages here. The Knight initiative has already qualified for the March ballot. While their hearts may be in the right place, some gay politicos feel the Hennings will unnecessarily distract voters from the campaign to defeat the Knight initiative. And the Hennings' belief in the Internet's power could be naive. According to Angelo Paparella, president of Progressive Campaigns in Santa Monica, no one has ever qualified a constitutional amendment in California without spending at least $1 million for advertising, paid signature-gatherers and the like. So it may be a while before California sees a (legal) same-sex marriage, online or off.

  • Virtual vows rev up same-sex marriage debate

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