Monday, September 9, 2013

A Nudge for Marriage Equality

Meeting with Rich Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Allegheny County
 September 9, 2013:

     While not exactly a win (he won't yet issue marriage licenses to same sex couples), it was not a loss. He is very open to helping us. We will meet again in a few weeks, and in the meantime, Sam Hens Greco will be working with his legal team. 

     Eight people spoke at the meeting. We covered the hits we take on homeownership, retirement, healthcare, and pensions. One women, not yet married, is pregnant, due any day, and rightfully worried about her family’s financial security. 

     Another man, who was recently married by Braddock’s mayor, Fetterman, said everyone asks why get married here in PA, where it is not yet “legal” (and so he risks his federal benefits). He likened it to the scene in Rudy where the team captain lays his jersey down on the coach’s desk for Rudy’s right to play in a game, and then others do the same, and Rudy gets to play and it means everything to him… At that point, Pat offered to give Rich Fitzgerald a jersey to lie on top of the Supreme Court's jersey, and Bruce Hanes’ jersey. Everyone laughed; it was a great moment. 

     When it was my turn, I tried to talk about the heart of the matter. Even brought family photos. Here's what i said:

Thank you very much for hearing us today. As you know, my partner Pat and I had plans to go to Montgomery County for a marriage license, but cancelled our reservation when we found out you were considering issuing them.

By way of introduction, I am a family doctor. I teach at Forbes Residency in Monroeville, I see patients at Metro, in Wilkinsburg, and I am the director of the Midwife Center in the strip. I have lectured about health care issues as they relate to LGBT community for many years. Evidence shows, and both my Academy and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree a two-parent household is best. This need not be mother and father; it is loving parents that make it work. Improving the structural integrity of the family helps children. Legal marriage builds structural integrity.

I’m also a mother, and a grandmother (here are some family photos). As you can see, my son and my granddaughter benefit from two large, loving families—Pat’s and mine. The black and white photo was from when Pat adopted our son Scott. It was 1994, and we were the first couple to do second-parent same-sex adoption in Allegheny County. Thanks to Kathryn and Sam Hens Greco.
"Now he's really ours," Pat's Dad.

I’m 58 years old, I came out in late 70s. To be honest, I am completely amazed at how far we have come in this country on LGBT rights. When I first came out, I was willing to live life on the periphery of society… not that I didn't start to fight it even then. But I knew, and accepted what I was getting into. That said, once the Supreme Court ruled, the last of my internalized homophobia dissipated. Almost overnight, I lost patience and tolerance for anything less than equal rights. That is why I am requesting you to grant Pat and I a marriage license here in Allegheny County.

On some level, it’s comical for Pat and I to think about getting married. It’s true, people our age get married, but generally they are actually “newly wed.” If allowed marry, Pat and I would be far from newlyweds. We’ve been together for 30 years; it’s clear who washes the coffee pot, and who sets it up for the next morning. We already know who loads the dishwasher the right way, and who will do it “wrong” every time. In fact, we probably looked like a bickering old married couple when we heard about the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA. We had been out of touch for nearly a week—on a medical service trip in Africa, when we arrived into Dulles airport in DC. As we road the transport bus from our plane to baggage claim, I read the news of DOMA on my iPhone.
           “Listen to this!” I said and began to read aloud.
“Let’s see that,” she leaned in.
As we both struggled to read the fine print, the irritation, fueled by the long flight, came out in her voice, “Don’t hold it like that,” she said. “I can’t read it if you hold it like that…”

It would be cliché to say Pat and I have stuck together through 30 years of thick and thin, and I would love to describe the thick times, as well as the thin times, but time won’t allow for that. Suffice it to say I believe a legal marriage may have helped us along the way, when we were near breaking points. There are couples out there now, teetering on the brink of a break-up. A legal marriage might make the difference.

So, why do I want to marry Pat? It’s simple. I want to make formal that which we have understood all along:  yes, you are my life partner, in thick times and thin, in sickness and health, until death do us part.


  1. Well said. So glad you have not given up the fight!

  2. You and Pat deserve nothing less, Janice!! It will be quite the celebration WHEN you two can legally be married. You are such an awesome writer :)

  3. thanks, Katie, on both counts. love the WHEN in your comment!!


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