By: Emily Scagel/TRT Assistant Editor–
NEW ENGLAND — With marriage equality legalized in all New England states except for Rhode Island, “The Rainbow Times” interviewed prominent New England couples to find out their views on same-sex marriage, and what they are doing for Valentine’s Day.
Jack Hornor and Ron Skinn, Northampton, MA
Jack Hornor and Ron Skinn met in 1994 on a gay cruise. They were legally married in 2008, and recently celebrated their 19th anniversary on January 24th.
“We have been very strong supporters of equal marriage for a long time,” said Hornor. “I served on the board of MassEquality for seven years during the marriage fight, and am proud of my service to that cause.”
Hornor, a prominent local gay activist originally from Manhattan, and Skinn, a former graphic artist from Ohio, stated that being legally married is extremely important to them, though same-sex marriage still needs to be legal at the federal level. “While we value our Massachusetts marriage license, we’re also clear that until we have marriage at the federal level, we’re still second-class citizens,” they said.
This Valentine’s Day, Hornor and Skinn will be “on the lovely and quite gay-friendly island of Vieques, just to the east of Puerto Rico,” they stated. “We’ll have a beautiful day at the beach, and a fabulous dinner with friends that evening.”
Skinn and Hornor are both involved in the Northampton community, and say that “together, they are also known for throwing fabulous parties and giving their time and energy to support local nonprofits.”
Sylvain Bruni and Michael Anthony Fowler, Boston, MA
Sylvain Bruni and Michael Anthony Fowler have been together for almost six years, and are, as they said, “not married … yet!” Their decision to marry is constrained by immigration regulations, as Bruni is French and Fowler is American.
“Now that Sylvain is a permanent resident of the USA, and since France is scheduled to legalize gay marriage this year, all should be in order,” said Fowler. They plan to get married in the fall of 2014 in France.
Not being married, though, has made a significant impact on both of them, they said. “Since gay marriage is not recognized at the federal level, Sylvain cannot obtain U.S. citizenship through marriage, which has an impact on taxes, social security benefits, medical rights, employment, immigration, etc.,” Fowler explained. “Similarly, Michael, who is an archaeologist specializing in Greek antiquity, cannot benefit from recognition from the European Union to facilitate his visa and work authorizations when conducting archaeological research in Greece and Italy,” added Bruni. Hopefully, they said, changes in the U.S. and France/Europe will allow them to overcome these hurdles.
What will they be doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day? “We are both foodies, so we’ll enjoy our Valentine’s Day dinner at a starred restaurant in New York City, celebrating with a glass of French champagne, of course!”
Jenn Tracz Grace and Andrea Grace, Connecticut
Jenn Tracz Grace and Andrea Grace have been together for four years, married for a year and a half, and said that they already had planned out their wedding day within months of knowing each other, because they “just knew.” They chose to get married on an “odd day,” which happens only six times a century — July 9, 2011.
They met while they were finishing their Master’s degrees, and “competing with each other over who had the best GPA at graduation,” said Tracz Grace, and besides being competitive, “We both have a passion for helping others, I in business for helping advocate on behalf of the LGBT community, she in the education world.”
Marriage has made a difference in their relationship, they said. “We have two kids, so being legally married is important to us because of them. It is important for them to grow up knowing that their family is just as equal to their friends’ families.”
Their wedding ceremony was officiated by the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut, Nancy Wyman. This “was very special to us. It really cements the respect that CT has for its residents,” Tracz Grace explained.
This Valentine’s Day, the couple is not being “overly romantic,” they said. “We will likely enjoy a nice quiet dinner at home, once the kids are in bed.”
John Verlinden, Oz Mondejar, Boston, MA
John Verlinden and Oz Mondejar are “best friends, as well as spouses,” they said. They have been together for almost 28 years, after meeting in Baltimore on March 15, 1985.
They got married in 2004, when it became legal in Massachusetts, for both legal reasons and to be part of a historical moment in time, explained Verlinden. “I remember at the time we thought it was all a little silly and we didn’t think it would make much of a difference in our relationship. After all, we’d already been together 19 years,” he said. “But, it did make a huge difference. It was great to have our union recognized officially, and it deepened our commitment to each other.”
Verlinden and Mondejar say they went to the Brookline Town Hall the first day they were accepting applications for marriage licenses, and recall that it was quite affirming.
“We were in line with a bunch of other committed couples, both men and women, some with children, some older, some younger. The town had a big cake recognizing the importance of this day, and the staff in the Town Clerk’s office were so glad to see us.”
The pair is not sure what they’re doing yet for Valentine’s Day, said Verlinden, “but I know we will enjoy each other’s company.”
Corey Yarbrough, Quincey Roberts, Boston, MA
Corey Yarbrough and Quincey Roberts have been together for almost four years, but say that marriage is not a priority. “For now, we are both ‘married’ to helping each other reach our shared and individual dreams, while helping to create the social and political conditions for everyone to embrace marriage if they so choose,” said Yarbrough and Roberts, who co-founded an organization together. The couple says that HBGC, the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, is “affectionately referred to as their ‘first-born’ and is a constant reminder of their like-minded passion for advancing Black and Latino LGBTQ communities.”
They would like to have a low-key and private Valentine’s Day, and explained that “since we are both introverts who happen to always be on the go, we look forward to days like Valentine’s Day to just relax.”
Keri Aulita, Mary Belge, Boston, MA area
Keri Aulita and Mary Belge were friends for five years before dating for two and a half years. “We have a great, solid friendship that
serves as a foundation to our relationship,” they explained.
Though they aren’t married, they are happy that a president finally agrees that marriage should be an option for everyone.
“The main reason we haven’t tied the knot yet is because we can’t nail down what we’ll call each other. Mary, being a butch lesbian, doesn’t want to be a wife. Spouse sounds so unnatural. Husband doesn’t fit. Husbutch, maybe? We’ll see what we come up with!” joked Aulita, a long-time employee within LGBT nonprofits. “It’s not the real reason we’re not married yet, but it’s an important piece for us LGBT folks to talk about.”
In seriousness, they say that they do struggle with the institution of marriage and what it means — the history of it, and the class system it creates, but “we also think that having kids, which we plan on, makes marriage a must.”
Even so, not being married, explained Aulita and Belge, “has no effect on how we view each other and how our relationship functions.”
Again, the couple mentions that they struggle with the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, and say that it “doesn’t appeal to us, but heck, we like celebrating us, so it does give us a day to just focus on what we have and how lucky we are.” Overall, they say that they are “always humble and grateful for what we have … in each other, and in life.”