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Caroline Manzo: Why I Support My Gay Brother's Marriage

06/07/2012 at 02:30 PM EDT

Real Housewives of New Jersey: Caroline Manzo on Her Gay Brother's Wedding
Jamie Laurita and Caroline Manzo
Charles Eshelman/Getty
When celebrity chef and designer Jaime Laurita wed his husband Rich Lane last summer at their home outside Chicago, his sister, Caroline Manzo, gave a poignant speech that brought tears to the grooms' eyes.

That speech, which you can watch below now, will air on Bravo's The Real Housewives of New Jersey Sunday (10 p.m. ET).

"I was thrilled," New Jersey's tough yet tender matriarch Manzo says of finding out her brother was going to tie the knot. "Everybody wants to feel accepted, loved, at peace, at home in their life choices. It was great ... for him and Rich to finally feel like their relationship is recognized."

Manzo says she has always supported her brother, even if finding out he was gay worried her at first. "I know that people can be cruel and unkind," she thought when he came out to her. "There are people who just don't understand his sexuality ... I don't want him to live his life this way being judged."

Now, says Manzo, "We're positive about it. We embrace it."

In fact, she's even made an appearance in Chicago's gay bar scene with her brother and her brother-in-law, whom she calls "very endearing, very funny."

"Rich and Jaime and myself and [my daughter] Lauren spent the night gay bar hopping and we had the best time in the world," she says.

As for the hot-button issue of legalized gay marriage, Manzo is a supporter. "I'd have any parade you'd want to have," she says. "I'd speak to any group you'd want to speak to because no one has any right to tell anyone who to love and how to love."

In fact, she's a supporter of marriage in general. "You could say, 'Gee we don't need a piece of paper; we have each other,' but I feel like somewhere deep inside you do need that piece of paper. You do need that acceptance, especially for those going through the journey Jaime and Rich have had."

And Manzo had a bit of a journey herself on the way to the altar to give her speech on her brother's wedding day as cameras rolled. "The only thing that was hard for me to do was walk to the podium because it was hot as hell – it was like 1,000 degrees," she recalls. "I had these giant Louboutin heels on … and sure enough I twisted my ankle and almost stumbled."

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