Jesse Tyler Ferguson: Equality Wrapped in a Bow
By Jase Peeples
Pictured: Justin Mikita (left) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson
For more than five years, Jesse Tyler Ferguson has helped reshape public perception of same-sex relationships playing the part of Modern Family’s uptight gay lawyer and father, Mitchell Pritchett. But the actor-activist has also been adding a stylish flair to the battle for marriage equality since launching the Tie The Knot foundation—a nonprofit that sells custom bow ties and donates all proceeds to various organizations fighting to legalize same-sex marriage—together with his husband, Justin Mikita, in 2012.
Over the weekend, Ferguson was on hand to help Tie The Knot celebrate the final days of the organization’s pop-up shop at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, which opened in November and will close February 28. While there, he spoke with Out about how his life's changed since he married the love of his life, the warm reception their nonprofit has received, and the thrill of teaming up with the always stylish Tim Gunn for Tie The Knot’s latest collection.
Out: You and Justin officially tied the knot this summer. How does it feel being a married man?
Jesse Tyler Ferguson: It doesn’t feel doesn’t feel different in our relationship as far as the day-to-day is concerned. But where I really notice it feels different are those moments like when I go to the doctor’s office and I get to check that little box on forms that says “married” and when I put down Justin as my emergency contact and his relationship to me is “husband.” It’s those little things.
It’s so important to be to be able to use those words like “husband” and “married” because everyone knows what those words mean, and when we met, we didn’t have aspirations of being “life partners,” we had aspirations of being married, so it means a lot to finally feel like we’re a part of that culture.
Are you surprised by the number of states that now recognize same-sex marriage less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8 and a key section of DOMA?
I’m happily surprised, yes. I thought it might take a little longer, especially for some states, but the floodgates have been opened, and it’s great to see popular opinion on same-sex marriage has evolved. A lot of people are realizing it’s not politically correct to say, “These Americans are not equal to everyone else.” I’m also surprised by the politicians and people who have been on the other side of the fence who are now supportive, and I think that has also helped dictate how quickly things have been moving.
The Tie The Knot foundation has been a great success. Do you have plans for the organization once marriage equality is realized in all 50 states?
We always said we hoped Tie The Knot would be put out of business and that one day we wouldn’t need to sell bow ties to help fight for marriage equality. That’s our dream. Actually, to be put out of business because there’s nothing left to fight anymore. [Laughs] It’s a bad business model, for sure, but that’s our goal.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of launching Tie The Knot?
I approach everything with a lighthearted attitude, and this has encapsulated something I’m very passionate about while complementing my demeanor and the way I like to do things. I’m not moving mountains with bow ties; I’m just selling them and giving the money to the fight for marriage equality. So I’ve been proud of how Tie The Knot has managed to marry my demeanor with a cause I care about so deeply. I love that something like a bow tie can be a conversation starter. If someone says, “I love your bow tie,” you can respond by with something like, “It’s from an organization called Tie The Knot and the proceeds went toward marriage equality.” I also love that it can be a quiet support too. Not everyone has to know what it means, and that’s perfect for those who aren’t more vocal but still want to show their support.
Tie The Knot’s latest collection of bow ties features Tim Gunn as a guest designer. What was it like for you having the opportunity to collaborate with one of today’s biggest out style icons?
I feel anyone who comes out and is eloquent and vocal about their sexuality helps add to the tapestry of what it means to be gay. There is really is strength in numbers and people like Tim—who have been so open and honest about who they are—have helped us gain mainstream acceptance. So it’s been wonderful getting to work with Tim in this way. He’s incredibly supportive of our organization and he’s such a joyful person to be around. He’s so smart. He really embraced our organization, and I was excited to bring him on board.
For more information about the store and collection, visit TieTheKnot.org