Jerry Rapier has been Producing Director of Plan-B Theatre Company since 2000. He married Kirt Bateman on July 24, 2011 in New York after 15 1/2 years together. Jerry’s next directing project is Plan-B’s “8” on August 4-5 – Kirt plays the role of Charles Cooper.
Homos have a hard time deciding how to determine anniversaries.
For us, it’s December 28, 1995. Why? Because that was our first date. Kirt came to see a show I was in at TheatreWorks West (which was in residence at Westminster College). We got off to a rough start because the guy I had been dating was also at the show that night. Kirt waited patiently in the car for me – it was in that moment that I knew what a great guy he was. We then we went for late-night lattes at Firenze (which was where Mo’s Grill is now). We talked for hours. When we finally went back to get my car, we sat in the parking lot, not wanting the night to end. I asked Kirt if I could kiss him. He said yes!
We were inseparable for the next week but then I had to head to Arizona for my brother Ryan’s wedding. When I returned to Salt Lake, we were again inseparable. So much so that by the end of the third week Kirt moved in with me.
He was 20, I was 24, and it may have been smart to get to know each other a little better before doing that. But we were still together when December 28, 1996 rolled around; the idea of us ever being able to have a wedding anniversary seemed like the stuff of science fiction so this celebrate-the-anniversary-of-our-first-date scenario made perfect sense.
Fast forward to the summer of 2011. We had already planned a theatre trip to New York the weekend of July 24. Kirt had a break in his schedule at the Davis Arts Council and I would be wrapping up a week of work for the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C. so we were going to meet in the city.
While planning that trip we were also watching the drama unfold in New York State regarding the Marriage Equality Act, which passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo on June 24, 2011. We were elated in a “this is good for the movement” way. It had no direct connection to us.
And then suddenly it did.
The Marriage Equality Act was set to go into effect exactly one month later on July 24, 2011.
We were going to be in the city that very day.
So I did some investigating. It took about 2 minutes to apply for a marriage license online. So I did. Why not? All that was left to do was show I.D. in person to prove that you were who you said you were and then wait out the mandatory 24-hour waiting period until you could actually get married.
The fact that July 24 was a Sunday seemed to be the biggest hurdle since all city offices would be closed. I called the City Clerk’s Office a few days after the law passed. I was surprised to get someone on the phone right away. He was very nice and explained that everything had happened so quickly that they really didn’t have a plan in place. No one knew if they would be open the day the law went into effect given the budget crisis the city was facing. They also didn’t know if the 24-hour waiting period would be waived so that people could do it all on the same day. He said to just keep watching the website for details.
So I watched the website for a full day – no updates – so decided to call back. By this point there was no hope of speaking to a human. The voicemail stated that they couldn’t keep up with the high volume of calls regarding the Marriage Equality Act so the only option was to wait for an online update.
A couple of weeks passed and no concrete information surfaced on the website. I left for my NEA gig in Washington, D.C. knowing that Kirt and I were going to meet a week later in Manhattan and that we had a marriage license waiting for us that we weren’t sure we would be able to use. Worst case scenario, we’d have to get in line early on the morning of Monday, July 25 to secure our marriage license at the City Clerk’s Office; go wait in another line in another building to apply for a waiver of the 24-hour waiting period; and then get back in line at the City Clerk’s Office in hopes of getting married in time to make our flight at 5pm. We were willing to give this a shot but it sounded iffy at best.
By Tuesday July 20, we hadn’t heard anything. I hadn’t been checking email all week but, on a coffee break that afternoon, I just happened to take a quick look. While I was doing so, an email popped through from the New York City Clerk’s Office stating that they would be open on Sunday, July 24.
They were instituting a lottery. Those who won a slot would have the 24-hour waiting period waived and were guaranteed to have their marriage solemnized that day. So I hastily filled out the online form for one of the 400 slots in Manhattan, hit send, and texted Kirt.
We would know by noon on Friday, July 22 if we had been selected. The trouble was, Kirt was getting on a plane that morning in Salt Lake City and could very well arrive in Manhattan not knowing if we were able to get married or not.
Of course, I was obsessively hitting refresh on my iPhone on every break from then on, hoping that we’d get word before Kirt got on a plane. On Thursday night, I was turning my phone off at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in D.C. about 5 minutes before the 8 o’clock curtain and decided to hit refresh one more time. There it was – the email. I nervously opened it and about fell out of my chair when I read that we had won one of the slots in Manhattan. I hastily texted Kirt but couldn’t wait for his response so I jumped out of my seat, bolted to the lobby and called him. It was suddenly very real. We were excited, a bit dumbfounded and a little giggly. We were getting married!
We met at our hotel on Friday night, July 22, headed to dinner and started talking about how to let people know. We sent out a bunch of text messages, posted on Facebook and tried to wrap our mind around what was happening. Kirt knew I’d talked to our friends Jedadiah Schultz and David Spencer about joining us if a wedding were to take place. If things worked out for a Sunday wedding they could both be there. If it were Monday, they were both heading out of town to do shows and therefore wouldn’t be able to join us.
What Kirt didn’t know is that I had been talking to our friend Susannah Derbenwick—Kirt’s closest friend from his high school years—about coming up from D.C. to be one of our witnesses. She was going to come stand in line with us and hope for the best. I called her late on Thursday night and to tell her it was definitely happening on Sunday instead of maybe happening on Monday and could she change her plans? She ended up pulling an all-nighter baking (see photos).
On Saturday afternoon, as we were heading to see a Broadway show my cousin Trisha was in, Kirt realized he had completely forgotten to text Susannah about what was happening (which was strange as she would normally be one of the first people to get good news from him). It was all I could do not to spill the beans. After the show, we were catching up with Trisha over dinner. Kirt went to the restroom and I filled Trisha in on the Susannah factor – that she actually was going to be showing up shortly to join us for dinner and that it was all a surprise for Kirt. Shortly after he returned to the table, Susannah popped in and sat at our table. Kirt was buried in his menu it took him a while to realize what was happening. It was perfect!
We’d received instructions to not arrive at the City Clerk’s Office before 7:30am on Sunday morning. Kirt, Susannah and I arrived about that time and there were already thousands of people ringing the building, waiting for the doors to open at 9am.
Jed and David met us there, completing our wedding party of five. While standing in line we all realized just how special what we were doing was. The joy in the air was palpable! It was energizing and exciting to be part of history. It was surreal when it hit us that we were about to be the first same-sex couple from Utah to be married in New York.
By 9:30am we were indoors. We discovered while waiting that all of the people working in the City Clerk’s Office that day and all of the judges performing the ceremonies were volunteering their time. That made the day even more special.
A little before 11am, when our number was called, things got very real. We were led to a back office. Judge Michael Sonberg, who performed our ceremony, asked the other judge in the room if he could do our ceremony. Two judges were in each room – the senior judge was signing waivers of the 24-hour waiting period and the junior judges were conducting the ceremonies. The junior judge agreed and Judge Sonberg took the reigns. He asked us how long we’d been together. We replied, “Fifteen and a half years.” He chuckled and replied, “Well, then you know what you’re getting into.” He paused, and then added, “You’ve been together half as long as my partner and I. We’re getting married next month.” (Read the QSaltLake and The Salt Lake Tribune articles about our wedding).
And then it happened: in less than five minutes in a back office, sitting at a desk, I married the love of my life. We were unprepared for how different we would feel. After all, we’d been together so long, wasn’t this just a formality? That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
We five went to brunch afterwards to celebrate. After we were seated, we noticed the owner of the restaurant started greeting people with, “It’s a great day in New York. Gay marriage is legal!” Once he realized we had just gotten married he personally brought us over a dessert to add to the celebration. It wasn’t a big deal and that was the whole point – it was very, very ordinary. And that made it even more special.
Well, this was originally a theatre trip so we had theatre tickets at 3pm. Ironically, this was the day we had tickets to different shows. So after brunch we decided to head to our respective Broadway theatres. That was not the best idea. When we rendezvoused back at the hotel, we laughed when we realized we’d had a shared experience in separate theatres: neither one of us could focus on anything but of what we’d just experienced. Later that night, I was relaxing in the hotel room and realized that Kirt had been in the shower for a very long time. So I checked in. He was leaning against the wall of the shower, deep in thought. He looked at me and said, “I didn’t expect it to feel different. I can’t explain it. But it does.”
And it does. It’s hard to put into words. You just have to experience it. And isn’t that the point?
Such inexplicable joy should be available to everyone.
Due to our schedules, we weren’t able to go on a honeymoon until mid-November. But that ended up being perfect. We spent a week at the beach house of our friends Jane & Tami Marquardt in Laguna Beach (thank you again J&T!). I had been in touch with the folks at Broadway Impact and the American Foundation for Equal Rights in August about Dustin Lance Black’s play “8”. I had heard about the script and wanted to read it to see if it was a good fit for Plan-B. Serendipitously, I was finally emailed a script during our honeymoon. I read it immediately and knew that Plan-B Theatre Company had to bring “8” to Utah. Maybe it was where we were – after all, what better setting to read a play dramatizing the trial that declared Prop. 8 unconstitutional than on our homo honeymoon in Southern California? The script spoke to me as an urgent call to action, a political tool and a provocative piece of theatre that had to be shared.
Currently, the District of Columbia; the Coquille and Suquamish tribes; and Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont grant same-sex marriages in the United States. Nine states now offer broad protections short of marriage (Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island allow civil unions, while California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington offer broad domestic partnership). Four other states (Colorado, Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin) have more limited domestic partnership.This November, same-sex marriage has been forced to a voter referendum in Maryland and Washington. Also this November, supporters of same-sex marriage have, for the first time, brought the issue to the ballot with the initiative in Maine.
We have work to do.
It’s crazy that tomorrow will be our first wedding anniversary! This coming December, Kirt and I will have been together 17 years. You know what’d be really crazy? If our marriage could travel with us wherever we decide to celebrate, especially here at home.
Plan-B Theatre Company’s Script-In-Hand Series reading of “8″ takes the stage August 4-5. A fundraiser for both Plan-B and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the event boasts a cast of 20 and a post-show discussion with the playwright, Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, and Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts). Tickets and more info available here.