Better cluck next time, Chicken Little
The drive to pass domestic-partnership legislation continues to be an uphill battle in New Mexico. And while civil-rights activists have yet to see such laws pass here, they are hopeful that they will soon, even if they have to go to court to get it done.
One of the major hurdles in securing rights for gay partnerships, many activists agree, is overcoming the fears expressed — to the point of violating the separation of church and state, some same-sex-marriage advocates argue — by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and other opponents that offering equal protection under the law to domestic partners is nothing but a gateway to the legalization of same-sex marriage, a concept that many anti-gay activists believe will erode or destroy the sanctity of “traditional” marriage between a man and a woman.
After speaking to Provincetown, Massachusetts, residents Jon Arterton and James Mack, one may wonder if it’s a little late to start worrying about what gay marriage might do. Arterton and Mack were married in Massachusetts in April 2005 and appear in Santa Fe on Saturday and Sunday, March 20 and 21, to benefit the national Freedom to Marry organization and the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). On the couple’s Web site, www.jonandjames.com, they report: “Legally married — and the sky didn’t fall.” Legally married for almost five years, and cathedrals in Boston have not crumbled. Legally married for almost half a decade and together for nearly 20 years, and swarms of locusts and plagues have yet to descend upon the Elvis chapel in Las Vegas.
Since getting married (gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts in 2003, and same-sex marriage licenses began to be issued in the state in May 2004), Arterton and Mack have also been singing about their nuptials. In an original revue titled Just Married! (The Musical), the couple tells the story of their courtship and marriage, and in broader fashion, talks openly, honestly, and humorously about American misperceptions of gay relationships, religious meddling in civilrights issues, and gay marriage.
Arterton and Mack lived just a few blocks from each other in Greenwich Village in the early 1990s, but they didn’t meet until they both moved to Provincetown a few years later. Memphis-born Mack, who was raised Southern Baptist and came out to his mother when he was 21 (she didn’t take it well, but she learned to accept it), was the “class sissy” before going to a Southern Baptist college and becoming a preacher. “That didn’t last long,” Arterton said. After a move to New York for a career in fashion, Mack headed to Provincetown, where he opened the Snug Cottage bed-and- breakfast and met his future husband. When they were ready to make invitations for their wedding in the small burg of Provincetown, Mack and Arterton didn’t want to leave anyone out — “so we took an ad out in the local paper and invited the whole town,” Arterton said. More than 300 attended the service.
Arterton admits that he was a late bloomer. “I came out when I was 35 years old. My mother had serious Alzheimer’s, so I don’t quite know how my coming out affected her or how she really felt about it. My sister was very supportive, though.”
Mack and Arterton both have strong performance backgrounds, which helped them nail down the writing and assemble and arrange songs for the revue. They met while singing in a chorus, and Mack, who has a master’s degree in theater, is also the founder of gay a cappella group The Flirtations.
Just Married! isn’t your average weddingthemed musical. Songs by Elvis, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, Tom Jones, and Harvey Schmidt mingle with work by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and others. Some rather sharp (but mostly PG-rated) and hilarious language is aimed at the authors and signers of the Defense of Marriage Act (including Bill Clinton), biblical literalists, and out-of-touch politicians and church leaders.
Have there been a lot of negative reactions to the show? “Not really,” Arterton said, “and in fact, we were nervous when we did the show in Iowa once. We were like, what do Iowans think about this issue? And to our relief, we were overwhelmed by the positive response to the show.”
Arterton and Mack admit that when they perform Just Married!, they’re probably not changing many minds among the audiences they visit. “We do it mainly at UU [Unitarian Universalist] places,” he said, “so we are, in a way, preaching to the choir. The main complaint we get from people with an opposing view of gay marriage who go into the show is that James and I are trying to change their minds or something through this performance. But frequently, those same people tell us after the show that Just Married! wasn’t what they expected it to be at all. They often say, really, it was just a love story.”