The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Gay U.S. ambassador opens up about marriage to longtime partner

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Rufus Gifford, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, is feeling a wee bit overwhelmed this week. A recent Facebook post garnered 55,000 likes, his boss (that would be the president) just sent him a personal hand-written note, and, oh, he got married last Saturday to his partner of six years, Stephen DeVincent. All the support pouring in has been, well, a lot.

“To be honest with you, I was completely overwhelmed by the press coverage both here and in the states,” said Gifford. “It’s an issue that’s still challenging for people and I will continue to be honest about who I am and tell the story.”

That would be the story of Gifford, 41, and DeVincent, 56, two Boston natives who met in Washington in 2009. Gifford had moved to the District to become the DNC’s finance director and DeVincent, a veterinarian, was in town for a science fellowship at the State Department.

The ambassador couldn’t recall who specifically popped the question. “Technically I think I did but it was more of a six-month conversation,” he said. The couple planned to tie the knot in their native Boston in 2013, but moving across the ocean for Gifford’s new job in Copenhagen made the idea of planning a wedding even more daunting.

Less than two years after settling in, the couple were married Oct. 10 at the Copenhagen City Hall, the site of the first same-sex marriage 26 years ago. The location was an “homage,” said Gifford, “to the journey that the whole world has gone on on this issue.”

After the ceremony, some 160 guests headed to the ambassador’s residence, an 1885 villa known as Rydhave, for dinner and dancing. There was no bouquet toss, but the couple did get hoisted into the air to have the tops of their socks snipped off (it’s a Danish thing). They remixed the traditional Danish “natmad” (or midnight snack) by serving hamburger and fries. Before the night was through, DeVincent surprised Gifford with fireworks. And just in case you’re wondering, no taxpayer money was spent on the affair.

Aside from the positive barrage of retweets and likes, Gifford said he hoped that the personal stood out more than the political and that people associated the day with concepts like love, friendship, progress and family. “All of the good things,” he said, “all the happy words.”