Many moms and dads may be not-so-secretly hoping that their gay sons and lesbian daughters will "put a ring on it" this holiday season.
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, Greenwich Village psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Joanne Spina said.
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, psychiatrists and social workers said.
"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 mothers, he said, is " 'Hurry up and get married! We want kids!' They're both fine with adoption or surrogacy: They just want grandchildren."
"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," said Marcelo Abramovich, a clinical social worker and therapist in Chelsea.
The pressure on longtime 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 longtime 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?' " Brownlee said.
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 their relationship means. "Before, you made it up as you go," Abramovich said.
"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, a social worker and Chelsea psychotherapist.
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 once creative and transgressive culture is turning into a mainstream couples cult.
"It's a bittersweet feeling of being a single gay man and being perhaps older or middle-aged and feeling left out," Kahle said.