Mr. Barley, a Mennonite from Pennsylvania Dutch country who had come to New York to study architecture at Columbia after graduating from Carnegie Mellon and working construction, quickly discovered that the admiration was mutual.
Yet Mr. Kushner, who was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish household in Livingston, N.J., did not have much work for the intern — he was half of a two-person firm that was just starting. To get Mr. Barley to stick around, he made up tasks, even asking him to walk his sister’s dog, which he was watching for the summer while she was out of the country.


“I was, like, the worst boss,” said Mr. Kushner, who received a master’s in architecture from Harvard. “I was mostly just concerned with getting him to like me.”
“He was different than other guys,”  he continued.  “There’s this kind of quiet optimism about him, not like the jaded world-weary New Yorker blah types that were everywhere else.”
Mr. Kushner began inviting Mr. Barley to dinner or to the movies, “like it was a normal thing for a boss and an employee to do this kind of thing,” Mr. Kushner said.
Mr. Barley said he found Mr. Kushner “amazingly enthusiastic.”
“He just has such an exuberance and joy about him, and that’s not common for architects,” he added. “They’re usually cynical and wear black.”
Each learned how different their lives had been up to that point. Mr. Barley, now 30, remembers a childhood of “picnics, cakes, pies,” herding cattle and raising tobacco and sweet corn on his grandfather’s farm. Bible study was a form of recreation. Dating and dancing were not allowed, but Mr. Barley didn’t mind. “I was a great little Mennonite,” he said.
“He grew up in, like, butter-land, I’m from margarine-ville,” said Mr. Kushner, now 34. “My family is all hyperactive ‘Oh, my God, we’re late, we have to achieve and right now!’ ”
Mr. Kushner’s boyhood leisures involved “indoorsy” pursuits, like watching television on his family’s many television sets. (Mr. Barley’s family’s set broke in the 1980s and still has not been replaced.)
The Kushners have long been prominent in real estate development and philanthropy in New Jersey and New York. (Jared Kushner, the owner of The New York Observer, is a first cousin.) Marc Kushner’s elementary school, the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, was named for his paternal grandfather, a Holocaust survivor from what is now Belarus who founded the family business. He said that he and his brothers and sister were expected to work hard and to prove themselves.
Mr. Kushner was in high school when he came to realize that he was gay, but did not tell his parents until he was a senior at the University of Pennsylvania.
“When he came home from college totally buff with bleach blond hair and tortoiseshell glasses, they were like: something’s up,” said his sister, Melissa Kushner. “Then he said he was gay, and it was like, well, should we be upset about him being gay or about his bleached hair?”
Mr. Kushner said that “in the end, their attitude was that just because I was gay didn’t mean that the rules weren’t the same,” he said. That meant keeping a kosher home and marrying someone Jewish.
“To me, that was the ultimate sign of acceptance, that the ideas of the family and what family believes in still apply,” he said.
Mr. Barley had not told his family that he was gay and said he had not had a romantic relationship until he and Mr. Kushner began dating.