Archive for October 3, 2012


On this date in 1955 Lou Affinito (Roman Catholic) and I (Lutheran) were married on a beautiful, warm, color-filled Fall day in Winooski, Vermont. To arrive at that point, we had to jump through three hoops. (1) Civil permission to marry; (2) Religious obstructions; (3 Emotional/attitudinal barriers.

The first of these was the easiest. It required a 9-hour drive from my home in Connecticut to Vermont. There we had to swear neither of us had been married before and prove, as I recall, that neither of us had a venereal disease. I guess they wanted to be sure we didn’t infect each other on our wedding night when we would have intercourse for the first time. (How quaint.) We were both unencumbered and pure and received the license (i.e. civil permission) to marry. In retrospect, I guess the purpose was to guarantee certain rights, like the right to inheritance. With license in hand, we could have been married anywhere. It had nothing to do with religion.

But then there was the second hoop to jump through – religious requirements. It was related to the third hoop, but I’ll separate them out and talk here only about the religious stuff. I completed six weeks, as I recall, of indoctrination into the Catholic faith. (They had a nicer word for it, but I can’t remember right now what it was.) I was fortunate to do the training with a bright and pleasant young chaplain at the Bishop deGoesbriand hospital in Burlington, Vermont, where I was teaching at the University. (I tried googling it to be sure of the spelling, but apparently it is no longer there – probably swallowed up by another institution.) I think the instructor’s title was Father Michael, but I wouldn’t swear to it in a court of law. Anyway, he told me that the sacraments of the Greek Orthodox church were recognized by the Catholic Church, so it was a place for us to have our marriage sealed in a way acceptable to the church if all else failed. Something about the schism having been incomplete.

Having passed that hurdle, we had the next impediment to overcome. The Catholic Church required we should be married in a parish where one of us had at least two years residence. For reasons to be elucidated in the description of hurdle #3, we could not comfortably choose to be married either in Lou’s hometown or mine. But we had signed a two-year lease in Boston where I would be attending a PhD program at Boston University.

So we visited a priest in the parish where our apartment was located, asking him to count that lease as a two-year residence. “How long have you been sleeping together?” he asked, and I flounced out of his office, saying, “OK. We’re getting married in the Greek Orthodox Church.” Lou didn’t much like that idea, so he suggested we try the Burlington, Vermont area where we had both been living (separately) for two years. So, another trip to Vermont. Thank goodness – or maybe even God – for father Boucher, an Instructor at St. Michaels’ college, Lou’s Alma Mater,  who agreed to perform the ceremony in the Winooski Church.

But wait, it had not all been accomplished. We still needed priestly permission — a kind of church license, I guess — before we could exchange vows. In the office of a priest in New Haven (Lou’s hometown) we made our promises while Father what’s-his-name focused on the ball game he was watching. Yes, we would raise the children Catholic. Yes, Lou agreed enthusiastically, he would try to convert me. Yes, we both agreed — my fingers crossed behind my back — we would use no artificial birth control.

Now we were prepared to move on to obstacle #3 – emotion/attitude. My future in-laws were delighted with Lou’s choice, but, not surprisingly, my parents weren’t at all happy, and I was fading away with stress-based weight loss. They were very practical, forgiving folks, however, so they joined in the plans – already made except for purchasing a gown, with the date set for three weeks away. I’ll summarize the whole thing with a photo of my wedding hat.

My future mother-in-law refused to attend the wedding if I didn’t wear a veil, and my mother refused to come if I did. We were all being very cooperative, including me, so I asked the milliner (Yup, a person who made a living making hats) to make me a hat with something that would look like a veil to my mother-in-law and not like a veil to my mother. She came up with a lovely creation with a veil in the back, almost to my waist. “Oh, I said, I think my mother will call that a veil.” Disgusted, the milliner took scissors to it, and what resulted was a short thing that stuck out as if it were, oh, I don’t know what. I hope I manage to upload the photo so you can see for yourself. .

And so we were married on a beautiful autumn day at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Winooski, Vermont. There are 23 people in the photo of our entire wedding party and guests. Seven of us are still living.

No, I’m not taking you on our honeymoon with us.

So, what’s the point of the story? Change! Ours was a scene-making mixed marriage. I challenge you to play a kind of “Finding Waldo” game searching for what’s old-fashioned and outdated in this story.

So, why my question? Why would you vote “yes” for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. One thing that remains the same is the fact that a civil license to marry conveys nothing but civil rights. It has nothing to do with religion. Or does it? Is that one of the goals, to modify the separation of church and state? Or is it the first step in a prohibition-like era where there will be a squad designated to search out people illegally living as if they are married?

My question is serious. Why vote “yes? The commercials I see all focus on religious definitions of marriage. But what does banning specific civil rights have to do with it?

Of one thing I’m sure, no law or constitutional amendment will prevent people from falling in love. I remember how it felt falling in love with Lou. People tried to stop us, but it overwhelmed us.

I am equally sure that, if the amendment passes, the day is not far off when it seems as inappropriate and old-fashioned as some of what we went through on the route to our wedding. Or maybe even the prohibition amendment.

Thanks for listening, and responding ..

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