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Tampa men first gay couple on 'Marriage Ref'

Michael Wigh, left, and David Salinero are seen on screen during taping of The Marriage Ref. Host Tom Papa is at right.

NBC

Michael Wigh, left, and David Salinero are seen on screen during taping of The Marriage Ref. Host Tom Papa is at right.

Hard to remember the last time Betty Boop caused a problem in any marriage.

But it turns out that a fight over a life-size statue of the campy 1930s-era cartoon character has earned a Tampa duo the distinction of becoming the first — and so far, only — gay couple to appear on Jerry Seinfeld's unscripted comedy show for NBC, The Marriage Ref.

As David Salinero tells it, husband Michael Wigh has decorated every inch of their Tampa home except for the spot in their kitchen occupied by Ms. Boop. But even he admits it was a challenge to argue to the show's celebrity panel — 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, comic Kathy Griffin and Broadway star Nathan Lane — that he should be allowed to keep the statue in its place.

"I think it adds a lot of character and fun to the house. … He just thinks it's tacky," said Salinero, 44, a managing editor at PricewaterhouseCoopers who met Wigh seven years ago when he moved to Tampa from New York.

He married corporate trainer Wigh, 46, in 2008, during the short window when California allowed gay marriages. A YouTube video of their wedding led to a call from Marriage Ref producers eight months ago.

Viewers will learn the couple's fate when the show airs tonight. Celebrities are shown cute, pre-taped videos laying out the conflict and each person's side of the story, then they kick around comments and the host, Tom Papa "makes the call" on who wins.

Salinero couldn't say how Papa ruled, though he and Wigh flew up to New York last week to tape the segment. (They didn't appear on stage, even though they were in Manhattan, so they don't know what the panelists said.) But he has promised to abide by the ref's decision, which was revealed to them on camera.

"We didn't even know until we were in New York that we were the first gay couple," said Salinero, noting that judges Griffin and Lane have a huge gay fan base.

"When we found out it was Nathan Lane and Kathy Griffin (judging) we thought it might be a gay-themed night."

And even though some bloggers already have snarked about the stereotype of having a gay couple fight over something as campy as a Betty Boop statue, Salinero hopes viewers will learn they are no different than the heterosexual folks who appear on the show.

"After the show, we got to meet Jerry Seinfeld, (who) said he was committed to having same-sex couples on," Salinero said. "We're just another average couple that has typical silly arguments. The more exposure of that, to me, the better."

Tampa men first gay couple on 'Marriage Ref' 04/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 12:15am]

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