Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen are no strangers to the spotlight. On the new season of their show “The Real Housewives of New York City,” they have chosen to use that fame to advocate for a cause near and dear to all of our hearts: marriage equality.
SDGLN: What made you decide to speak out in support of marriage equality? Why choose this issue?
SVK: Ultimately it’s simple fairness. There should be no restriction on the gender of a person’s legal partner; everyone should be allowed to officially create a family unit, receive health benefits, file taxes and raise children with the one person whom they love.
AM: I grew up with gay family members. Plus, seeing positive and stable same-gender partnerships without thinking anything of it, I was shocked when I went away to college to witness relationship bias for the first time. As I grew up and married, it became all too visible among our gay friends who also grew up and paired off, but were unable to make it legal.
SDGLN: How did you react to the New York Senate’s rejection of its gay marriage bill in 2009?
AM: The 180-degree turn from overwhelming support in the state Assembly to the defeat in the state Senate shows us all how much work is still needed – what’s being done now isn’t enough, which is why we got involved with Marriage Equality New York.
SDGLN: If and when a new bill to legalize gay marriage is introduced, would you be active advocates and supporters of it?
SVK: Absolutely; it’s important and we believe gay marriage should be legal. And while perhaps this is an issue that the individual states should lead, it's also important that the feds pick it up and embrace it too. Alex and I met and fell in love while I was just a visitor to the U.S. I was able to get a fiancé visa, and after we married, a green card and citizenship. It's ludicrous to us that they should be afforded a benefit denied to people whose sexuality is different than theirs. We're thrilled that the Department of Justice has backed off enforcing DOMA but its repeal is what's really needed.
SDGLN: Do you have LGBT friends who have negatively been affected because the limitations on their rights?
AM: Yes – there are many examples but one that made it to TV is my best friend from college, whom “Housewives” viewers saw in season two and will see again in the new season. He was unable to take a job in another state because his marriage would not be recognized there, which would affect their benefits, their child, etc.
SDGLN: Do you think your audience supports your decision to step out as marriage equality advocates?
AM: Time will tell, once the episodes covering marriage equality are aired and our beliefs are more widely known. At the moment, one wouldn’t necessarily know unless they follow us on Facebook or Twitter, but in those arenas we’ve had overwhelming support and agreement.
SVK: Certainly it's true that we tend to stay away from partisan politics on the “Real Housewives” (our viewers tend to watch our show for comic relief, not heavy politics) but for us marriage equality is a civil right and something that is or should be politically partisan.
“The Real Housewives of New York City” airs on Bravo TV on Thursdays at 10 pm ET/ 7pm PT and is repeated often.