Mass. Same-Sex Couples Share Their Relationships for Valentine’s Day

By: Clara Lefton/TRT Reporter—

BOSTON, Mass.—In June 2015 the United States Supreme Court will listen to four different cases that dispute the issue of same-sex marriage in the nation. The decision has the possibility of allowing same-sex marriage to become legal in all 50 states after decades of debate. The Rainbow Times spoke with some New England couples to hear about their relationship values and whether or not same-sex marriage is important to them.

Carl Sciortino and Pem Brown, Medford, Mass. & Coco Alinsug and Peter Cipriano, Lynn, Mass.  Photos (respectively):  Glenn Livermore Photography; Sunil Gulab

Carl Sciortino and Pem Brown, Medford, Mass. & Coco Alinsug and Peter Cipriano, Lynn, Mass (below).
Photos (respectively): Glenn Livermore Photography; Sunil Gulab

Carl Sciortino and Pem Brown, Medford, Mass.

Carl Sciortino and Pem Brown have been together as a couple for seven years, married for one. Sciortino is the executive director of AIDS Action Committee and Brown is a senior strategist for M+R. The two met while Brown was working at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Sciortino was working on the Buffer Zone Bill as a State Representative. They first connected at a breakfast for the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

“The fight for marriage equality was a part of both of our personal experiences with activism and politics,” said Sciortino. “We know we’re fortunate to live in a state that has been at the forefront of not just marriage but LGBT equality more broadly.”

The couple doesn’t have any Valentine’s Day plans yet, but they did recently adopt two cats, Starbuck and Houdini, who Sciortino says they want  to convince to be lap cats rather than “hiding-under-the-bed nocturnal cats.” Sciortino’s favorite quirk about Brown is how, after work, when Sciortino asks Brown how his day was, Brown “always mindlessly answers ‘sad and lonely without you,’” while Brown’s favorite quirk about Sciortino is his cluelessness about pop culture. The two also look forward to taking a wine tasting class together in 2015, which they’ve been planning to do for years.

“We both lead busy, independent lives, but the day rarely ends without us cuddled on the couch watching our latest favorite TV show and catching up on our days,” said Sciortino.

Carly Burton and Melissa Berman, Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Henry Paquin and Keith Sanders and Carly Burton and Melissa Berman  Photos (respectively): Henry Paquin; Carly Burton

Henry Paquin and Keith Sanders (below) and Carly Burton and Melissa Berman
Photos (respectively): Henry Paquin; Carly Burton

Carly Burton and Melissa Berman met while playing flag football in 2004. Since then, the two have married and now have a 15-month-old daughter, Clea, and a 15-year-old cat, Filly.

“It has been really important to us to be able to be married and to be able to adopt our daughter together,” said Burton, the interim co-executive director of MassEquality. “I am grateful for all the work that the pioneers of the LGBTQ movement did to ensure that this could be my reality.”

In their eyes, communication has been a key factor in creating the longevity they have in their relationship. The two often try to save more serious conversations for long car rides in order to come to a conclusion by the time they reach their destination. They also try “playing to our strengths” by splitting up chores and daily tasks.

In 2015 they are looking to continue to enjoy the challenges and excitement of parenthood. Burton describes her upcoming Valentine’s Day as a good example.

“I imagine we may do something really romantic like have dinner at home with our daughter and then give her a bath and clean the mashed potatoes that we fed her out of her hair,” Burton said.

Coco Alinsug and Peter Cipriano, Lynn, Mass.

Coco Alinsug and Peter Cipriano have been together for 12 years after meeting on a dating website. Now, almost two years into their marriage, they have bought a house together. Currently, their latest life change has been the loss of their 10-year-old greyhound, Albany. Although they are not planning to get another dog anytime soon, they are looking forward to their 2015 visit to China and the Philippines.

“It is important to respect each other,” said Alinsug, detailing how he and Cipriano make it work. “We are a multi-ethnic and multicultural couple, and during the early years of our relationship, it’s a bit challenging considering we have different cultural backgrounds, but we have strong respect for each other and that was the key to our relationship.”

When it comes to their home lives, Cipriano loves to keep a tidy house. Although Alinsug appreciates his efforts, sometimes he rearranges part of the home just to be goofy and see if Cipriano will notice. The high-spirited couple plans on spending Valentine’s Day at their favorite restaurant and then attending a movie.

“As any couple we have our own challenges, but communication is important. I am very passive and Peter is entirely the opposite,” said Alinsug. “Another factor is that we are very clearly in love and respect each other. We both value and are very involved with all of our extended families. We also have a very strong and loving group of friends. We’re both old school and involve ourselves with community and social justice work. With a combination of experiences like that and seeing the world that surrounds us, we get a better sense of understanding and respect of ourselves.”

Keri Califano and Mary Belge; Fran Hutchins and Laura Kalba  Photos (respectively): Fran Hutchins; Keri Califano

Fran Hutchins and Laura Kalba (left); Keri Califano and Mary Belge (right-below) 
Photos (respectively): Fran Hutchins; Keri Califano

Keri Califano and Mary Belge, Boston, Mass.

Keri Califano and Mary Belge are getting married this summer after dating for the last four and a half years. Engaged since 2013, their self-described, “big gay country wedding” will take place in August at the Publick House Historic Inn and Country Lodge in Sturbridge. The two met while on a vacation with mutual friends, hitting it off immediately by sharing many common interests and core beliefs.

“Over the years, our friendship grew and about three years later we started dating. It may sound cliché, but having the foundation of a solid friendship beneath us is a blessing. It’s awesome because we not only love each other, but we also really like each other,” Califano said. “Who we are, how we move and operate in the world—we’re super aware of how lucky we are to have found each other.”

Although they don’t have any specific Valentine’s Day plans, the two always make sure to make something romantic happen while trying to maintain their busy lives. In addition to trying to balance their careers—Belge is a middle school teacher and Califano a real estate agent—they have an eight-month-old girl, three greyhounds, a Labrador mix, and a cat.

We really don’t fight a lot,” Califano explained, sharing what she believes are some key factors to her successful relationship. “I mean, we might have a little tiff over cleaning the kitchen or leaving the dogs outside for too long or whose turn it is to make dinner, but we really have a good harmony between us. Some of it is just natural, but we also play fair. We talk through things, we listen, and we always find a happy middle place when it really counts.”

Henry Paquin and Keith Sanders, Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Although Henry Paquin and Keith Sanders have yet to officially tie the knot, the two are engaged after four years of dating. They met while attending a drag show at Boston’s Jacques Cabaret and now live together with their two Siamese rescue cats, Lucy and Tabby.

“I don’t think having the rights made a difference in our lives, however it feels great to be equal and be able to express your love for your partner and be recognized by the government,” Paquin said with regards to same-sex marriage. “Marriage to us is about love—no government document will change my love.”

When the two aren’t at home enjoying a movie and eating take out, which they plan to do this Valentine’s Day, they love to be involved in the public community. Sanders, a music teacher, gives free lessons to the community and performs in many charity events. Meanwhile, Paquin often raises money for LGBT youth and specifically the transgender community.

“The LGBT community is currently facing a lack of unity and inclusiveness with mainstream LGBT organizations,” Paquin expressed. “We need to work towards integrating the LGBT community, because we are losing the vast culture we have within the LGBT community.”

Fran Hutchins and Laura Kalba, Easthampton, Mass.

Although Fran Hutchins and Laura Kalba now live together in Western Mass., the two met as graduate students in Paris, France. Hutchins placed an advertisement looking for another expatriate writing partner, and the two made a date to meet at a Paris-based LGBT film festival. Their movie choice ended up being far from memorable, but the two hit it off and have been together for 11 years. Today, they are joined by Oscar Wilde, their “fat” orange cat.

“Being married has made a pretty big difference in our lives, both emotionally and practically. Benefits such as health insurance aside, getting married in 2008 with all of our friends and family there stands out as an important day in our relationship,” said Hutchins, who also thinks deeply about rights other people of the LGBT community do not have. “For me, it’s shocking that people can still be fired, evicted or denied health care in 29 states because they are LGBTQ.”

Despite having no Valentine’s Day plans, the two are planning on having a summer adventure together. Kalba, an assistant professor at Smith College who focuses on earlier 20th century European Art, will be traveling to the United Kingdom for research. Hutchinson, the director of training and organizational development at the Equality Federation, is looking forward to joining her there.

Growing up in Montreal, Canada, Kalba speaks French in addition to English, a skill Hutchins doesn’t possess but finds adorable when Kalba cannot find a fitting English translation for a French word.

“We like to remember that in the end, we are two different people who happen to like each other very much,” said Hutchins.

Despite having no Valentine’s Day plans, the two are planning on having a summer adventure together. Kalba, an assistant professor at Smith College who focuses on earlier 20th century European Art, will be traveling to the United Kingdom for research. Hutchinson, the director of training and organizational development at the Equality Federation, is looking forward to joining her there.

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