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Some gay New Yorkers feeling pressure to get hitched this holiday

NYC's gays and lesbians now pressured to marry

NYC's gays and lesbians now pressured to marry and procreate just like their straight sisters and brothers. Photo Credit: Getty

Many moms and dads are not-so-secretly hoping that their gay sons and lesbian daughters will "put a ring on it" this holiday season.

Welcome to equality: the land where families and friends think nothing of urging you to the altar and inquiring about your reproductive intentions.

Gay New Yorkers who felt "demoralized by the lack of respect are finally blooming and blossoming," as a result of the Supreme Court's June demolition of a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, observed Greenwich Village psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Joanne Spina.

But the right to marry has also delivered unexpected social pressure on people who have long formed their own creative, and, at times, unconventional, partnerships that they were previously under no pressure to define.

"Put a ring on it" urgings and pressures to procreate began after marriage equality passed in New York State in 2011, but really ramped up after the Supreme Court demolished most of DOMA.

"I definitely feel pressure," not just to marry, but to become a father, said Sebastian Arango, a dancer and sales associate in midtown, who has been engaged since January. Arango, 31, is an only child. The unsubtle plea coming from both his and his fiance's mother, he said, is "'hurry up and get married! We want kids!' They're both fine with adoption or surrogacy: They just want grandchildren."

Arango "is an amazing human being and will be a great father. It's just a natural feeling to want an extension of someone you love," said his mother, who asked that her name not be used.

The intrusiveness "is coming from a place of love," said Juan Olmedo, a therapist who lives and works in midtown: "They want (their loved ones) to have the same validation, recognition and respect that others take for granted." Couples who have been in established relationships for several years or more are the most subject to inquiries and pressure, said Olmedo.

"Some of the mothers are very enthusiastic," which is a far better problem than parents who refuse to accept their children's sexual orientation, observed Marcelo Abramovich, a clinical social worker and therapist with a gay-focused practice in Chelsea.

Many parents worried when their children came out, fearing their kids would live isolated, childless lives. Now, all options are open. "They don't want (their children) to be alone," and feel marriage not only confers legal protections but cements a relationship, Abramovich explained.

The City Clerk's Office for NYC refused to respond to numerous requests for statistics to discern if there was rise in marriage applications from couples who identify as same sex. But those in the engagement business say that just as bookings surged after New York State legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, the demolition of DOMA brought about another spike.

Harlem wedding photographer Jared Slater, owner of J & Jay Photography, saw a big rise in same-sex wedding bookings after the state legalized them in 2011, and another surge in inquiries and bookings after June 26. His business "was about 50% (same sex couples) in 2012 and now it's 80%," said Slater.

Emily Lester, a midtown wedding planner, said her same-sex bookings have risen 20% since late June -- and not just from New York couples. "I'm getting couples from Texas, Arizona and Georgia," planning destination weddings in gay-friendly NYC, she said.

The pressure on long-time couples to sign the papers can also come from gay friends. Harry Brownlee, 78, a retired psychiatrist who lives on the Upper West Side with his partner of 23 years to whom he has been married for five, said he routinely encourages long time couples to make their relationships legal. "I'm very direct: I don't have a problem asking them, 'Are you at all concerned about inheritance and tax issues? Are you protecting each other?'" said Brownlee.

The increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage has also forced some couples who were previously spared the task of "defining" their love to take stock of what, exactly, their relationship means. "Before, you made it up as you go," as Abramovich pointed out.

"The question of marriage for a lot of couples has exposed the fault lines in their relationships (such as) money, inheritance issues, and alimony," issues, and forced individuals to confront just how much they trust each other, observed Michael Kahle, LCSW and a Chelsea psychotherapist. Too, some are finding that one person may be ready to make a life-time commitment while the other is not.

While younger gay men and lesbians now have the option to adopt the same "object oriented" dating as heterosexuals in pursuit of a long-term partner and co-parent, some older gay people lament that a culture once viewed as creative and transgressive is turning into a mainstream couples cult.

While everyone rejoiced to see DOMA demolished and gay marriage legalized, those who are not immediately positioned to avail themselves of the new rights sometimes wish they were. "It's a bittersweet feeling of being a single gay man and being perhaps older or middle aged and feeling left out," Kahle said.