Thankfully, for members of the theatre family in New York, at least, another barrier to full equality has been torn down, and just yesterday, same-sex marriage became legal in the state. The Broadway community - as it does with so many national issues of concern like the AIDS epidemic and natural disaster relief - has taken the lead on the front lines of the issue of gay rights. One major group, Broadway Impact, had much to do with getting this legislation passed. And they will continue to fight any and all issues of equality.
Broadway also knows how to celebrate and commemorate. Four-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald will be singing at the very first ceremony, officiated by Mayor Bloomberg. Then there is the always irreverent, timely and inspiring Avenue Q. Rod and his rent boy lover, Ricky, announced their engagement and marriage on July 24. They wanted to be among the very first to tie the know, and all before the 3PM matinee!
How fitting that Hair is back at the St. James Theatre and what has truly become a summer of love. The cast, crew and Public Theatre (the producers of the show), along with Jujamcyn Theatres (which runs the St. James, and its leader, Jordan Roth, a gay man himself) will be sponsoring the marriage ceremony several same-sex couples following this evening's performance of Hair.
Here is a partial timeline of events leading up to tonight's celebration:
- 2009: Broadway Impact is formed in celebration of President Obama's inauguration and in response to the defeat of Proposition 8 in California by Broadway's Gavin Creel (Hair), Jenny Kanelos and Rory O'Malley (The Book of Mormon). Since its inception, it has held many large scale rallies and has been in the forefront on distributing information throughout the theatre community.
- October 11, 2009: The National March for Equality in Washington, D.C. is held. More than two dozen buses transported over 1,400 Broadway actors, technicians, crew, fans and supporters to the rally. Producers of the Broadway show Hair cancelled performances to allow the entire production company to attend this historic event.
- May 10, 2011: NY Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell introduces the same-sex marriage bill.
- June 15, 2011: The NY Assembly passes same-sex marriage bill for the fourth time, voting 80 - 63.
- June 24, 2011: The NY State Senate passes the same-sex marriage bill into law 33 - 29. Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately signs the law, which will go into effect 30 days later.
- July 13, 2011: Rory O'Malley of Broadway Impact, The Public Theater's Oskar Eustis, and Jujamcyn Theatre President Jordan Roth, along with other Broadway dignitaries including Joel Grey, Will Swensen and the current cast of Hair announce that following the performance of the show on July 25, several members of the Broadway community will be married on the stage of the St. James Theatre. (Above)
- July 24, 2011: Same-sex marriage becomes legal in the state of New York.
- July 25, 2011: The Scottsboro Boys' Colman Domingo, an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, conducts the marriage ceremony of several same-sex couples at the St. James Theatre. Among the couples: Follies co-star Terri White and jewelry designer Donna Barnett (above), actor Ryan Dietz and playwright Josh Levine, and stage doorman John Raymond Barker and Jujamcyn Theatres usher Jared Pike.
Though the LGBT community has many more hurdles to climb over on the journey towards complete equality, let's all pause for a bit to reflect on how far we've come and to offer thanks and congratulations to everyone married today and in the future.