'Yee-Haw!'

It was just a kiss. Or was it? On June 8, when co-lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman won a Tony for their work on the Broadway show "Hairspray," the two kissed on the lips and expressed their undying love for each other--on live television. "It was totally spontaneous," remembers Shaiman. "We weren't pushing an agenda." But funny enough, the gay-rights movement has made two significant strides since then. First, on June 10, Canada began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. And then today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas sodomy law that banned gay sex acts, even in the privacy of people's homes. Gay-rights groups hailed it as a significant victory. NEWSWEEK's B. J. Sigesmund spoke by phone this afternoon with Shaiman and Wittman, a couple that director John Waters has called "the Rosa Parks of the gay world." Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Before we get to the politics, let's talk about Tony night.

Marc Shaiman: We weren't pushing an agenda. We were just a couple who had this great celebratory moment. We'd be that way if we'd won something on "The Price is Right," too. I wanted to stand on a mountaintop and say, "I love this person, and I thank you for being my partner."

You've been thanked by hundreds of people since that night.

Scott Wittman: Literally strangers on the street will comment. Amazingly, I even had a teenager come up to me and thank me. He was probably at Judy Garland Middle School.

Shaiman: Someone on the street was just smiling at me with this great look on his face. He came up to me and said, "Have a great life, honey." Wittman: Our friends and family said they had never seen such happiness coming from two people.

Shaiman: And speaking as a Jew, happiness doesn't come naturally. Jews don't drink because it interferes with their misery.

OK, let's talk gay marriage. Less than 48 hours after your big Tony win, Canada laid the groundwork to make it possible for gay men and lesbians to marry.

Shaiman: Maybe there was something in the air?

Wittman: We opened the floodgates.

Shaiman: I felt jealous.

Would you ever go up there and do it?

Shaiman: I wouldn't want to go through the legal act of marriage unless it was applicable to our lives here in America. But it's glorious that people in Canada see marriage as simply about loving another person.

Wittman: And wanting to announce it to the whole world.

Now, on to today's news. The Supreme Court overturned a Texas sodomy law. Wittman: Yee-haw!

Shaiman: I learned what sodomy really was just a few years ago. Let me say, losing a sodomy law opens up a lot of things for a lot of people. Wittman: But it feels like we've turned a corner.

Shaiman: Though we still have a way to go. We gave out some scholarships last night to gay kids who have been in foster care. There were kids there who had been thrown out of their homes because they were gay. To quote Oscar Hammerstein, 'You've got to be carefully taught.' If people grew up without being taught these things, they wouldn't be handed down. Someday, it will be a non-issue.

Any thoughts on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the presidential candidate? He's gaining a lot of positive buzz among lesbians and gay men because of his state's civil-unions law.

Wittman: It would be nice if we could help in any way his candidacy. I worry he may be shooting himself in the foot for some of the stances he's taking. There are so many people who are horrified or mystified by them.

Shaiman: But it's huge for a politician to stand by the things he's saying. He could very well be sacrificing his ability to become president. But it's very brave of him.

A lot of showbiz folks are embracing him, too. What do your friends like about Dean?

Wittman: Remember when Bill Clinton was in the primaries? We never thought he could win. It would be great if the gay community got out and voted.

So now what? Off to celebrate gay-rights victories somewhere?

Shaiman: Yes, we're going to Canada to get married, then Texas for the honeymoon!

'Yee-Haw!' | News