If you attended the MCA’s 2012 exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, you probably saw Gran Fury’s 12-foot-long poster Kissing Doesn’t Kill (1989). Countering misconceptions of HIV transmission, it depicts two same-sex couples (and one opposite-sex couple) kissing under the titular phrase.
Provocative for its time, the work debuted in Chicago in 1990 on 60 CTA buses and 25 “L” stations for one month. Some of the posters were defaced, and the Illinois State Legislature even considered banning their display entirely.
If you lived through the 1980s, and the decades before that, you know what a historic moment it was when same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois on November 20, 2013. You understand that it signifies real progress: We as a society—though not yet as a nation—have moved from a time when Gran Fury’s work was notorious to a time when the MCA ran the exact same ad on CTA buses in 2012 and received positive and appreciative feedback through its social media channels. We’re seeing our friends and relatives who have long been devoted to each other finally recognized by the state and by the law. This is progress. This should be marked. And this should most certainly be celebrated.
When Governor Pat Quinn signed SB10 last fall, the only question for the MCA wasn’t whether to celebrate, but how to celebrate this momentous occasion. A group of staff members who are passionate about gay rights and marriage equality met to brainstorm ways the museum could mark this progress with the LGBTIQ community. The idea that appealed the most to us was the most ambitious: open the museum for an entire day of marriages—for free. When we approached Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn with this proposal, her response was an enthusiastic “Yes!”
On June 2, the MCA worked with Equality Illinois—along with other generous sponsors who are providing complimentary photography, decor, and other services—to host 15 couples who were more than ready to, as the Beyoncé song goes, “put a ring on it.”
The MCA hosts weddings all year long and its staff is delighted to be able to host weddings for all couples at last. Congratulations to all of the couples throughout Illinois—and the United States—who have worked toward equality and who are finally seeing their efforts realized.
*This post first appeared in MCA Chicago (Summer 2014).
Check out the Chicago Sun-Times' highlight of the event here.