Even in a city as diverse as New York and a neighborhood as progressive as the West Village, a little kid knows that having two dads is different. Eight-year-old Maeve certainly did.
She knew, too, that the world didn’t see her family exactly the way it saw others. Her dads, Jonathan Mintz and John Feinblatt, could tell.
“She understood that there was something, for lack of a better word, second-class about her family,” Mintz said.
And, as she wrestled with that, her frustration was distilled in a question that she and then her sister, Georgia, 6, began to ask more and more often.
Why aren’t you two married like our friends’ parents?
For a long time Mintz and Feinblatt avoided an answer because, while they didn’t want to lie, they also didn’t want to focus their daughters’ attention on the blunt truth: that New York, like most states, forbade it. So they perfected stalling tactics, asking Maeve and Georgia if they thought a wedding would be fun and whether they envisioned being flower girls and on and on. Anything to keep the conversation happy and the girls from feeling left out.
On Sunday, their family will be at center stage. The first same-sex weddings will take place in New York, and Mintz and Feinblatt are saying their vows at Gracie Mansion, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime friend, will officiate.
And while the two men are thrilled for themselves, it’s on behalf of their daughters, who will indeed carry bouquets and stand with them and the mayor, that they’re positively ecstatic. The men care deeply that the girls feel fully integrated into society and see it as just. Sunday’s ceremony goes a long way toward that.
Outside New York there’s less cause for celebration: Twenty-nine states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and plenty of people who interpret a formal validation of same-sex relationships as an assault on “family values.”
So I invite you to look at the values of the Mintz-Feinblatt family. They do, too. That’s why they let me drop in on them twice this week and will have reporters at their wedding.
Feinblatt, 60, who is Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, and Mintz, 47, the city’s commissioner of consumer affairs, have lived together for more than 13 years, the last eight in a West Village townhouse.
To go that distance, adjustments were necessary. Feinblatt, the less orderly one, learned to accept that no matter where he dropped his suitcase, it would “be moved to a ‘better’ place,” he said.
“A much better place,” Mintz added.
They put enormous thought into having children. They had to. They found a surrogate willing to work with them twice; Maeve and Georgia have that extra connection. And to avoid any sense that either girl belonged more to one father, or vice versa, the couple asked a doctor to make sure that each of them sired a child but not to tell them whose was biologically whose, unless medically necessary.
They have suspicions, but don’t try for anything firmer.
Both girls are Feinblatts. Mintz said he “horse-traded” his surname in return for getting “Daddy.” Feinblatt took “Dad.”
Adoring relatives surround the girls. An aunt and uncle on Feinblatt’s side live in an apartment in their townhouse. Feinblatt’s stepmother visits so regularly from Baltimore that she got an apartment across the street.
As for their grandparents, aunts, uncles and seven cousins on Mintz’s side, all of them, along with the two girls and their dads, gather at a resort in Baja California for a week every February. The girls chatter about it all year long.
They have three dogs, one a recent surprise birthday gift for Georgia. Maeve says she predicted it. She mischievously maintains she sees portents in the sky.
“We’re trying to dissuade her,” Mintz said. “We’re concerned there’s no scholarship in psychic cloud reading.”
Since 2004, Massachusetts has allowed same-sex marriages, but Mintz and Feinblatt are committed New Yorkers, and their daughters weren’t fixated on weddings at first.
Then the questioning increased. Sidestepping it finally became impossible. In late May, the couple took Maeve to hear a speech Bloomberg gave in support of same-sex marriage. She cried, they said, as she was hit full force with her family’s lesser place, at least then.
The girls have invited 15 friends to Sunday’s reception and picked the frosting colors for the different flavored cupcakes: purple for chocolate, yellow for banana, pink for red velvet.
On Tuesday, just after day camp, they accompanied their dads to the caterer’s for a final tasting. They fidgeted through the Portobello mushroom sliders and tuna ceviche, awaiting dessert.
When it arrived, they pounced, and their dads, beaming, didn’t hold them back. This wasn’t a moment for limits.