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‘Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family’ – Part I

by David Badash on September 15, 2013

in Marriage,News

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The New Civil Rights Movement is proud to announce writer and composer Joel Derfner will be joining us as a contributing writer, and he has offered us several exclusive excerpts from his new book, Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family.

Derfner is also the author of the NYC-based blog, Faustus, M.D., which he’s been writing since 2002. I remember reading it regularly for its wit and humor many years ago, when I first started my own blog — which has long since evaporated.

Below, the introduction and first of several excerpts from Derfner’s new book, which officially comes out this week.


* * *

Joel Derfner didn’t want to get gay married.  He doesn’t gay grocery shop and he doesn’t have a gay driver’s license. Joel’s road to marriage was burdened with barriers and labels simply because the love of his life is of the same sex. Recognizing that his personal story is a reflection of the national conversation about the “new civil rights movement,” Joel, with searing wit and unrelenting honesty and humor, wrote Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family.


“Listen,” said Sarah, once the sound guy finished adjusting her microphone, “I may have figured out the solution to your dilemma about which wedding is the real one.”

“Really?” My heart lifted. Sarah had wanted to tell me this on the phone, but the director made her wait until we were together so she could film it.

“A wedding in America today is two events. One legal, one ceremonial. They can happen at the same time and place for straight people, but not necessarily for gay people.”


“If you and Mike were straight, or you lived in Massachusetts or some other state that allowed same-sex couples to get married, everything would be really simple. You’d invite a bunch of your friends to a ceremony recognizing your commitment to each other, and right after the ceremony you’d sign a piece of paper that meant the government recognized that commitment. It would all feel like one big thing, and the next day you’d wake up and be married.”

This made perfect sense, but there was a problem. “Even so,” I said, “there’s still no reason for us not to go to Connecticut the day before our ceremony and get married there. That would be much more like one event. But by prostituting myself and my wedding for whatever measure of fame might come from this television show on a channel we hadn’t even heard of before we auditioned, I’ve put months and a thousand miles in between the two events. How is that not making it two weddings?”

“Come on, the only thing the extra time and distance do is make the separation easier to see.”

None of this conversation made it onto the show, of course. But the more I sat with the idea, the more I thought that maybe this would turn out okay after all. When Mike and I stood in front of the magistrate in Iowa in a week, we’d complete the legal aspect of our wedding but not the ceremonial aspect. That would have to wait. Iowa was my wedding, part one. Part two had yet to be scheduled. And I needed both.

“Sarah, are you sad that Joel’s getting married and you’re not?”

“Oh, my GOD. I don’t know how many times I can tell you that I’m nothing but thrilled for him. And sure, I’m still single, but just because Joel’s getting married it’s not like he’s living my fantasy or anything.”

(This did make it onto the show, edited as follows: “Joel’s getting married. And I’m still single. He’s living my fantasy.” I wish I were kidding.)


skitched-20130915-124017Joel is from South Carolina, where his great-grandmother had an affair with George Gershwin. After leaving the south, he got a B.A. in linguistics from Harvard. Realizing that linguistics was not his métier, he moved to New York to get an M.F.A. in musical theater writing from the Tisch School of the Arts.

Musicals for which he has written include Postcards from Another Planet, Signs of Life, Another Annette and Swish. The scores have been produced in London, Chicago, Seattle, New York, and various cities in between.

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