When Michael Cole-Schwartz, a press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, married Steven Cole-Schwartz, a director at a non-profit that works on ballot measures, last November in Washington, he wanted to be sure the ceremony wasn’t a political statement.
“Because we deal with these kinds of issues with our work, we really wanted the wedding to be something special. We were really concerned with it not being political and about the fight, but about us and our love,” he says. “We tried to make it a celebration.
Cole-Schwartz, a 30-year-old gay Stratford, Conn., native, got married at Long View Gallery by a minister who works at Victory Fund. After the noon ceremony, the 100 guests — both sets of parents attended — went to the couple’s favorite bar, Fox & Hounds, for a reception.
Cole-Schwartz came to D.C. in 1998 for college. He majored in political science at American and interned for HRC. Within months of finishing, a position was open and he’s been there ever since.
“I feel so incredibly fortunate to get to do professionally what is such a passion of mine,” he says. “The LGBT rights movement is the critical movement of our time and when we look back I think we’re going to see this particular time period as the time when real change took place that will make a difference in so many lives. This is the place where I feel I can make the most difference on the issues I care most about.”
Cole-Schwartz lives in Columbia Heights. He enjoys cooking, traveling and doing crossword puzzles in his free time. (Blade photos by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out to friends at 15, but as with many people, telling my parents was the hardest. That didn’t happen for a few more years.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
People like Frank Kameny who blazed the trail for the LGBT equality movement we have today. In turn, the young people who continue to stand up and speak out in challenging environments are incredibly heroic.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The first gay space I ever encountered – the old Cobalt before the fire.
Describe your dream wedding.
Thankfully, I had it. A perfect fall afternoon filled with good food, flowing drinks and the most important people in the world to us at our side, coupled with hearing the words “by the power vested in me by the District of Columbia.”
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Although LGBT issues are a subset, the larger problem of religious-based bigotry.
What historical outcome would you change?
The initial response to AIDS.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Pop culture is definitely my weak point so for me it’s also political – dancing with Steve at the Inaugural Ball while the president and first lady also danced to Beyoncé singing “At Last.” Could it get any better for a gay political junkie?
On what do you insist?
Top shelf booze. And that all of the Trivial Pursuit cards face the same direction.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Just closed my LinkedIn account and feel great about it. If people want to connect with me professionally, what’s so hard about an e-mail or a phone call?”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“A Man’s Reach Should Exceed His Grasp”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Mount a PR campaign to convince people that it’s a terrible idea.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
That all of this is not an accident.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Everyone has an important role to play.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My husband. And our dog, Gary Busey Cole-Schwartz.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I’m not usually bothered by stereotypes as long as they don’t question the inherent worth and humanity of LGBT people.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
My favorite explicitly LGBT movie has to be “Beautiful Thing” (our first wedding dance was to “Dream a Little Dream”), but in terms of a camp classic, “Soapdish” is on heavy rotation in our household.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Asking someone how they’re doing when you don’t genuinely care.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My neighbor’s wife.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How much I didn’t know.
Professionally, there is no better place for me, and personally, D.C. just feels like home.