David Hyde Pierce: ‘This just didn’t seem like America’

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Actor David Hyde Pierce, right, and husband Brian Hargrove attend the Broadway opening of Evita, starring Ricky Martin, in 2012. — Photo: AP/Starpix, Amanda Schwab

Actor David Hyde Pierce first came out as gay in 2007 after winning a “best actor” Tony Award for the musical Curtains. During his acceptance speech, Hyde Pierce thanked Brian Hargrove, his partner of 24 years and a television writer, producer and director. 

The couple married in California on Oct. 24, 2008. Eleven days later, their union was in legal jeopardy.

“I remember the night very clearly,” Pierce says. “I was shooting a film in L.A. and came home late. Brian was already upstairs in bed, asleep. I was sitting in the kitchen watching the election returns. I heard that Barack Obama had been elected, and I was very happy because I had supported him. A minute later I heard that Proposition 8 had passed.”

Prop 8 removed the right granted some years earlier allowing same-sex couples to marry in California. The proposition passed by less than a margin of 5 percent. Pierce was shocked.

“My first reaction was, “But this is America,” Pierce remembers. “I am sitting in my own home wearing my wedding ring and I just found out on television that the state of California thinks that my marriage doesn’t count. That the state came into my home and stood between me and the person I love. This just didn’t seem like America to me.”

Despite the law, Pierce’s marriage to Hargrove was ultimately declared legal because it predated the law’s repeal. In 2010, a federal court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. Once the appeals process had been exhausted, same-sex marriage was
reinstituted in California on June 28, 2013.

The growing number of states legalizing same-sex marriage has encouraged Hyde Pierce. He believes that marriage is a fundamental right, and the disappointment he felt when Prop 8 passed has turned him into a vigilant supporter.

“The reason it keeps passing in state after state is that the rest of the country is slowly beginning to feel the way I did,” Pierce says. “Or they’re beginning to realize they wouldn’t want to be treated this way. We make a lot of progress as a society when we are able to see ourselves in each other.”

The pushback against marriage equality in Wisconsin saddens the actor, but he finds optimism in the current trend toward acceptance. Courts have issued 22 rulings in favor of same-sex marriage and none against it. Polls show the majority support for marriage equality in the United States keeps growing larger.

“Fifty years from now people will look at the situation and say, ‘Are you kidding?’” Pierce says. “In the same way we now look at laws about interracial marriage, this will just seem hard to fathom.

“I’d say to the Wisconsin couples who got married or are hoping to get married to hang in there and keep fighting,” Pierce says. “There is only one way for this to go, and it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.”