Tag Archives: same-sex marriage

John Dodig: He Does “I Do”

The other day, a Facebook post caught John Dodig’s eye.

A couple was getting married. But because they’re gay, one set of parents refused to attend. So a friend of one of the men stepped in, and took the place of the father.

The two acts — of ignorance and understanding — hit home.

John Dodig

“I understand growing up with the burden of trying to hide who you are,” says Dodig, the popular and highly respected principal of Staples High School who retired in 2015.

“I was terrified too. And one of the worst fears about coming out was losing my parents.”

Dodig did not say the words “I am gay” out loud until he was 46 years old. That day — in front of a mirror — he repeated them several times, just to be sure.

Two years later, he met Rodger. Dodig was principal of Fairfield High School, so they would not be seen together. If someone said “Hey, Mr. Dodig!” when they strolled down Main Street in Westport, Rodger was “trained” to walk away.

By the time he was 60, Dodig was no longer terrified. He was the principal of Staples High School, out publicly and on a mission to make his building a safe place for every student and staff member, no matter who they were.

In June of 2013, Dodig and Rodger were married at the Saugatuck Rowing Club. The joyful ceremony included Dodig’s ex-wife, her current husband, their daughter and her fiance, and Dodig’s daughter, her husband and their children.

Rodger’s mother and his 3 brothers were there too.

“It doesn’t get better than that,” the former principal says.

So when he read that Facebook post about the gay couple, and the friend who stood in for the parents at their wedding, he had 2 thoughts: “The good news is, people are coming out and getting married when they’re young. The bad news is, there’s still a chance they’ll lose their parents.”

Dodig — who is as active in retirement as he was during his 47 years as an educator — decided he could help.

He’s offering to stand in — as a parent, grandparent or friend — for any gay man or woman whose loved one refuses to attend a wedding.

“I’ll go to any ceremony where 2 people commit to love each other forever,” Dodig says.

“The thought that someone finally comes to terms with who they are, and wants to get married, but someone else refuses to be there for them — that’s heartbreaking.”

He posted his offer on Facebook. Almost immediately, a female friend offered to accompany him, so there can be both a “mother” and “father” at a wedding.

“I may never get called,” Dodig says. “But I’m ready to help.”

He invites “06880” readers to spread his offer far and wide. Just email dodig8095@gmail.com.

He’ll even walk you down the aisle.

Stonewalling Ben Kampler

It’s been an academic 14 years for Ben Kampler.

After graduating from Staples High School in 2001, he headed to Brandeis. He took his degree (English major, women’s studies minor), added a pair of master’s (queer theory/sexuality studies from NYU, sociology from Queens College), and embarked on a teaching career (Statistics, Introduction to Sociology Research, The Sociology of Sexuality) at Queens and Hunter College.

So of course, he’s also a bartender.

As a gay man, Kampler was happy to get a job at the Stonewall Inn. From outside on Christopher Street, it doesn’t look like much. But it’s considered the birth of the gay rights movement, because in 1969 the patrons fought back after one more in a long series of police raids. (“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad” headlined the New York Daily News. A framed copy hangs inside the Stonewall today.)

Ben Kampler, behind the  Stonewall bar.

Ben Kampler, behind the Stonewall bar.

But in the mid-2000s, the Stonewall Inn was barely hanging on. “We ran out of glasses, and bought our liquor from a store down the block,” Kampler recalls.

He moved to another bar. In 2007, though, it reopened under a new owner. Kampler returned.

He’s been there ever since.

Ben Kampler (left) and his husband Jeff Bravo.

Ben Kampler (left) and his husband Jeff Bravo.

Working at perhaps the most historic bar (gay or straight) in the world — last month, New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to give it landmark status — has its perks.

One of Kampler’s co-workers is a 75-year-old veteran of that famous June, 1969 night. (“He tells people, ‘I saw fighting and went the other way,'” Kampler says. Still…)

The Stonewall Inn is a bona fide tourist attraction. “People make pilgrimages,” Kampler notes. “They stand there in awe.”

Then they come in for a drink (or three). Sometimes, they engage the bartender in conversation. He’s happy to oblige — if he’s not too busy working.

After all, it is a bar. “We have our regulars,” Kampler says. “It’s very ‘Cheers’-like.”

Still, no one was prepared for the day last month when the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional in all 50 states.

Kampler’s regular Friday shift starts at 4 p.m. He heard the news at 10 a.m., and was called in immediately. It was all hands on deck.

Crowds swelled. News crews gathered. All of Greenwich Village was a party — and Stonewall was its epicenter.

“It was amazing,” Kampler reports. “Except we ran out of champagne and food.”

Two days later, New York celebrated Gay Pride. Once again, the place was crazy.

“As a staff, we appreciate what goes on,” Kampler says. “But it really was a marathon weekend.”

Ben Kampler took this photo of the crowd outside the Stonewall Inn, on the day the US Supreme  Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional in all 50 states.

Ben Kampler took this photo of the crowd outside the Stonewall Inn, on the day the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional in all 50 states.

Working at the  Stonewall Inn has given Kampler great friends. He likes his co-workers and boss.

“I’ve been there through history — the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, New York marriage, and now marriage everywhere in the country,” Kampler says.

“And Stonewall has supported me through 2 master’s degrees.”

But he won’t be there much longer. This fall, Kampler begins a Ph.D. program in sociology at Boston University.

His goal is to teach and do research in women’s, gender and queer studies. Of particular interest: examining the patterns of law enforcement in gay bars, and the social changes occurring in those bars.

Odds are good he’s the only person in that field with nearly a decade of bartending experience in the most famous gay bar in the world.

Jane Moritz’s Cookies Are So Gay

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, you’ve probably heard stories of businesses that refuse to serve gay clients.

This post is not about how stunningly hypocritical they are, as they willingly serve divorced people, adulterers, and women who refuse to submit to their husbands.

And it’s not about some homophobes in far-off flyover country, who cannot understand that allowing 2 men or 2 women to wed has no effect whatsoever on their own marriages. Or that marriage, legally, is a civil institution; a religious ceremony is just icing on the cake.

Jane Moritz

Jane Moritz

This story is about a Westport woman, and what happened when she put rainbow cookies on her website to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling.

Jane Moritz owns Challah Connection. Her Norwalk-based company offers gift baskets — not just bread, but kosher meals, deli, fruit and babka — for High Holy Days, housewarmings, birthdays, graduations, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and shivas.

(They also ship baked good, nuts and dried fruit for Ramadan and Eid.)

Last month, when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, Moritz displayed “rainbow cookies” on her website’s home page. She added a message: “Never have these treasured cookies had such meaning.”

Within an hour, she’d received 3 “hate emails.” She told The Jewish Week that people asked “what was wrong with me, how could I be a Jew, how could I be supporting gay marriage.” They said they would never order from the Challah Connection again.

Moritz responded on a Yeshiva World News message board: “We stand firm in the Jewish values that implore upon us to show compassion and kindness to all beings.”

Rainbow cookiesTo which someone replied:  “Even though the Torah that you pretend to accept calls this behavior an ‘abomination’ punishable by death. I guess when Torah values conflict with liberal politically correct values we know which side you choose.”

Moritz told The Jewish Week that she is proud of what she did. She does not think it’s her place to judge anyone’s celebration of Judaism — or anything else.

She’s not alone. Orders poured in for the Challah Connection’s rainbow cookies.


Same-Sex Marriage: New York Wins, Westport Loses

Patty Strauss was a bit miffed last Sunday — the day same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

No, she emphasizes, she’s not opposed to 2 men or 2 women having their love sanctioned and affirmed by the Empire State.

Patty’s reaction was more practical:  As Westport’s town clerk, she knows we’ll lose hundreds of dollars each year in license fees.

From 2009 — when Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage — through June 30, 2011, Westport issued 102 same-sex licenses:  52 to female couples, 50 to males.

In that same period, 340 opposite-sex couples received marriage licenses here.

Westport town clerk Patty Strauss takes a pause from issuing same-sex marriage licenses to pore over some records.

The same-sex couples came from all over Connecticut, and beyond:  New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico and California.

“It’s been our pleasure to serve couples from New York who were happy to come here to be married,” Patty says.

I’m as glad as Patty that gay men and lesbians traveled to Westport from across the country to be married here.

But I wondered about those New Yorkers, and Jersey boys (and girls).  Why didn’t they just bop over to Greenwich?

Many did.  But, Patty says proudly, “Westport has a reputation of accommodating everyone, and making them feel very comfortable in the town clerk’s office.”

Patty has witnessed many marriages herself.  One memorable couple was married in the Town Hall lobby, and shared a beautiful cake with Patty’s staff.

The town clerk’s office is filled with photos, and beautiful thank-you notes.  A particularly poignant one came from a couple that had been together for 40 years, before legally marrying.

Justice of the peace Martha Aasen has also wed “quite a few” same-sex couples.

“The word got out that Town Hall extremely welcoming,” she says.  “Lots of places don’t offer same-day service.  But Patty has things ready in 20 minutes.”

Martha notes that our neighbor’s new law will have a dual effect on Westport.  New Yorkers will now stay home to be married — “unless they want a nice country wedding,” she says.

But we’ll also lose couples from other parts of the US, who may opt for a wedding in exciting New York City, rather than one in Connecticut.

Maybe that’s a way to solve the budget crisis in Washington:  legalize same-sex marriages everywhere.

“Mayor Bloomberg was right,” Patty says, ruing the budget she prepared in February — not knowing the New York legislature would soon deprive her of several hundred dollars in fees.  (A Connecticut marriage license costs $30.)

“He said that same-sex marriage is great for New York for many reasons, including the economy.  There are licenses, cakes, caterers.  We’ve benefited the past few years from New York not being as advanced as Connecticut.”

The Riker Twins Fight For Equality

Few Staples graduates have resumes as interesting as Derek and Drew Riker.

The ’88 alums shed careers in corporate America to become supermodels.  They posed with Cindy Crawford, for the lenses of Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts, and for clients like Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani and Revlon.

The twins made a close run on “The Amazing Race.” Derek — for whom Ben Stiller named his famous character Derek Zoolander — married Miss Illinois USA.

Derek and Drew Riker - Amazing Race

Now the Rikers have moved to the other side of the camera.  They’re well-known photographers, specializing in fashion, beauty and celebrities.

Recently, they’ve branched out to political activism.  Inspired by stories of their many gay friends, they’ve thrown their straight weight behind New York state’s push for same-sex marriage.

Derek and Drew took all the photos for the web site of One Day Equals, last week’s day-long lobbying effort in Albany.  Their shots link the cause to other freedom movements, such as the Revolutionary War, French Revolution and fall of the Berlin Wall.

In New York’s capital, the Rikers met with some of the state’s leading legislators. “It’s a conscience issue,” Derek said simply.

“Lots of people had very personal stories,” he added. “From knowing people like Herb Ritts, right down to today, we see how the lack of marriage rights affects their lives.”

The Rikers are not stopping until a New York bill is passed.  Their next project is a gallery event. They’ll sell their work, and donate all proceeds to the same-sex marriage cause.

Riker brother photo - Gay Marriage New York

Derek and Drew Riker captured diverse views of the gay-marriage debate.

Derek and Drew Riker captured diverse views of the gay-marriage debate.

What Would Miss Manners Say?

Rudy Giuliani was not in Westport yesterday.

The former mayor and failed presidential candidate was a “last-minute no-show” at the wedding of his former roommates, Howard Koeppel and Mark Hsiao, the New York Post reported.  Giuliani stayed in the couple’s luxury apartment after wife #2, Donna Hanover, kicked him out of Gracie Mansion.

Rudy Giuliani (center) performing some of his mayoral duties.

Rudy Giuliani (center) performing some of his mayoral duties.

Koeppel and Hsaio invited their ex-house guest to their double-ring ceremony at the home of Westport friends Jeff Soref and Paul Lombardi.  The ceremony made today’s New York TimesWeddings & Celebrations” page.

But it wasn’t enough to lure Rudy.  According to the Post, “Rudy and (wife #3) Judith were invited with a beautiful invitation by mail.  His secretary called Thursday and said he was not able to come to the wedding and wished us the best.”

No word if he sent an extra-special gift to make up for his way-late reply.