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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  1. Mona! looking adorable as bride – and the very strange veil – what a story.
    Just now glad I don’t live in the States

  2. that was a very good article. i did and still do believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. unfortunately for me, religion does play a part in me because I believe that God created man for a woman, not men for men nor women for women, these are my thoughts only, and I could be wrong. i am only one person in this big world

  3. Dr. Mona,

    I have personally benefited from your time, counsel, warmth and wisdom. Through you, I have learned that I am indeed, a gift. I am God’s Child! I firmly believe that as a child of God I am responsible to live my life according to His law as is written in the Bible. The Bible clearly states over and over again that gay sexual relations are abominable. Remember: Love the Sinner, not the Sin? I discovered the following article as I was searching for opportunities of conversation that would help me reaffirm my Vote Yes decision.

    “Gay Marriage — What Is the Answer?

    In the Bible in Judges 17:6, we read this statement: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (NAS95). In other words, when there is no absolute authority to decide right and wrong, everyone has his or her own opinion about what to do.

    So how could the Christian leader whose interviews were quoted earlier in this chapter have responded differently? Well, consider this answer:

    First of all, Jesus (who created us and therefore owns us and has the authority to determine right and wrong), as the God-man, did deal directly with the gay marriage issue, in the Bible’s New Testament, in Matthew 19:4–6: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?” So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ ”

    He could have continued:

    Christ quoted directly from the book of Genesis (and its account of the creation of Adam and Eve as the first man and woman—the first marriage) as literal history, to explain the doctrine of marriage as being one man for one woman. Thus marriage cannot be a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.

    Because Genesis is real history (as can be confirmed by observational science, incidentally), Jesus dealt quite directly with the gay marriage issue when he explained the doctrine of marriage.

    Not only this, but in John 1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (KJV).

    Jesus, the Creator, is the Word. The Bible is the written Word. Every word in the Bible is really the Word of the Creator—Jesus Christ.10

    Therefore, in Leviticus 18:22, Jesus deals directly with the homosexual issue, and thus the gay marriage issue. This is also true of Romans 1:26–27 and 1 Timothy 1:9–10.

    Because Jesus in a real sense wrote all of the Bible, whenever Scripture deals with marriage and/or the homosexual issue, Jesus himself is directly dealing with these issues.

    Even in a secular context, the only answer a Christian should offer is this:

    The Bible is the Word of our Creator, and Genesis is literal history. Its science and history can be trusted. Therefore, we have an absolute authority that determines marriage.

    God made the first man and woman—the first marriage. Thus, marriage can only be a man and a woman because we are accountable to the One who made marriage in the first place.

    And don’t forget—according to Scripture, one of the primary reasons for marriage is to produce godly offspring.11 Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply, but there’s no way a gay marriage can fulfill this command!

    The battle against gay marriage will ultimately be lost (like the battle against abortion) unless the church and the culture return to the absolute authority beginning in Genesis. Then and only then will there be a true foundation for the correct doctrine of marriage—one man for one woman for life.”
    —Ken Ham

    • Somehow, Dawn, I knew I”d hear from you on this. I’m happy to know I was right. Thanks for staying with my blog. It’s clear you have carefully considered your religious arguments. How do you respond to the issue of using religion to determine civil law? i.e., using the church as the absolute authority for civil law. Or did I misunderstand your argument … ?

  4. You were a beautiful bride, Mona, even with the quasi-veil, which does appear to suffer somewhat from an identity crisis 🙂 Yours is an excellent question and poses a real conundrum. One would think a civil ceremony would be adequate, since marriages are legal unions, but religion seems to trump legality in the public forum. Civil unions for gay people (in states which legalized same) have not worked out very well so it seems that “marriage,” with its religious connotations, is a must…but then neither civil unions nor marriages are currently valid across state lines. ??? I’ve heard some opponents of gay marriage insist that they’re o.k. with civil unions but that marriage is “for one man and one woman – only,” but it’s all hot air without the attendant and universally recognized legal rights and benefits. I cannot fathom opposition to legal unions, whatever the terminology du jour, and find the right-wing arguments that allowing gay people the right undermines the rite (sorry – had to do it!) ludicrous. I believe it will take a Supreme Court decision (or a Constitutional amendment) to make marriage the law of the land for everyone irrespective of sexual orientation. Before 1967’s Lovings v. Virginia, 16 states still had anti-miscegenation laws on their books – which they enforced with relish! I can’t help believing that at their core, anti-gay marriage folks derive a sense of moral superiority from their opposition, which they are loathe to relinquish.

    • Thanks for your response, Pam. As for the Supreme Court deciding, the chances are good that we will have a conservative court in the future, and for a very long time. They might well uphold this change in our constitution’s purpose — limiting freedom instead of protecting it. That precedent really scares me.

  5. It scares me, too, Mona. Conservatives insist they want limited government, that government IS the problem, etc. but then they want it used to impose their religious beliefs on others via laws. I find perplexing the Biblical argument against gay marriage, a reflection in part of the different ways in which the Bible is interpreted. More than that, and to me a stronger point, is that there are many things condoned (even dictated) in the Bible that we don’t espouse today, so why do so many people vociferously hang their hats on one thing (gay marriage) but not another (take your pick)? I believe that each person is entitled to his or her religious views (or lack thereof), but to codify them in law that disenfranchises people who happen to love the “wrong” people is unjust.

    • So much is not understood about the way nature (God?) made us. People think in terms of two distinctly different creatures – one male and one female — so far from the truth of genetic variations and fetal development. But yes, the scary thing is for one version of religion to be dictating our civil laws. And yes, what about so many other things about Biblical marriage with its concubines. Just look at Abraham fathering a child with Sarah’s maid, at Sarah’s suggestion. I could go on, but I wanted to focus on the civil aspect. And the Biblical as well as sexual variations calls for a whole book. In fact, coming up when I have time will be a review of a book that makes clear the complexities. I’ve got to find time, though.

  6. You have certainly opened a complex issue. My parents, in a “mixed marriage” came decades before what you experienced with Lou. What a frightful way to have to pass muster to recognize and have accepted the love you felt for one another at the time. Never mind what the Bible says, for me,as a child of a “mixed marriage” I have memories of constant conflict, tension, confusion and doubt of the place of God and religion in my life. My mother, the once devout Catholic, “converted” to make the union acceptable. I don’t know what anyone’s parents thought. I do know that mine spent 25 years or more of “wedded bliss” suffering and causing confusion and doubt for their children. I would attend the Lutheran services accepted by my father and his family and hurry home to accompany my mother to the last Mass of the morning. She died with a rosary in her pocketbook.
    I understand about love – even its potentially profound pain and disappointment. I understand something of the agonizing challenges of life and how they may or may not be made more bearable by having a “significant other” to be with you in the challenge. And I read the statistics that tell us that it is quite unlikely that any declaration of commitment – same sex or otherwise – is likely to survive a sustained life long mutual positive regard. People grow and change.
    I don’t believe that any religion should dictate civil law and I don’t think that the commitment one human being makes to a shared life with another is a matter to be dictated by religious beliefs, however honorable or sincere they may be. I do think that any two people who choose to commit to one another in a potentially long term relationship should be afforded equal rights of commitment, no matter what goes on behind closed doors.

    • As you know, Nancy, my children as well have taken different routes to responding to the conflict we built into their lives with our promises. I never stopped being a Lutheran. Neither of my children is a practicing Catholic. I think one of the issues is the promise we made that attempted to dictate our children’s future. I appreciate Dawn’s response above, coming from her authenticity. That’s what we need to guarantee for our children. And yes, I maintain that we cannot, or should not, dictate religious beliefs by way of civil legislation.

  7. Wow, and for some reason, i thought there would be more supportive comments here…as a lesbian in a loving and committed relationship with my partner of six years, you’re damn right I should have the right to marry the person I love. Mona, you are absolutely correct in stating that marriage is a civil contract. Marriage licenses are given and stamped by the county in which one lives, not by a certain church – shouldn’t that end the argument there?? For most couples that fall in love and move in together, marriage is the next step, especially after six years. But not for me and CeAnne. It’s already unlawful for us to get married here in MN. (So why change our Constitution to make it impossible for us to ever get married??) To quote someone famous who I cannot remember: are we not human? Do we not bleed? Why don’t we deserve the right to have a marriage ceremony performed where we can celebrate with our friends and family? Yes, we want the same rights you have: taxes, Social Security, pension and health care benefits, no more disgusted stares by ignorant strangers…where should I stop? “Civil unions”? Please. What’s wrong with “Marriage”? In that case, it all comes down to semantics. Bible-thumpers and people who continually quote Scripture? (We run into a lot of those.) Most of them tend to pick and choose which parts of the Bible they live by (adulterers should be killed, don’t eat shrimp, don’t wear clothes made of different fibers, etc. etc.) There are many tired, senseless arguments out there against same-sex marriage, but only one FOR same-sex marriage: equality under the law. Same as the anti-miscegenation laws someone mentioned. Same idea. And the majority should never be allowed to vote on the rights of a minority. EVER. Sorry, this is a very touchy subject for me. I’m usually more even-tempered and even eloquent! Thanks for listening.

  8. P.S. Mona, I, too, would love to know what exactly it is that anti-gay people are afraid of? Do we have really bad breath or something? Cooties maybe? I know we’re not contagious….

  9. Love it.

  10. As half of a couple who waited close to 30 years for the New York State Legislature to finally endorse gay marriage, our legal marriage in May was comforting (in that we could now expect several perks otherwise not available to gay people), but also a bit anti-climactic. What on earth was the Big Deal? Our witnesses were Camille’s son, his wife and our two little grandsons who are totally cool with it. They refer to us by a single name, “Nana-and-Bubbe,” and have never known anything different. The sad thing is recognizing that we are pawns in the hands of politicians and commentators who unload their breathless warnings about the dire consequences without the slightest personal knowledge of us or the lives we have led. That disconnect from reality betrays a darker agenda, where the deliberate conflation of religious and civil rights is, in my opinion, meant only to arouse and confuse. Perhaps, by next spring, our legitimacy will be in the hands of this Supreme Court, where it will undoubtedly be parsed to pieces. No matter what they decide, the on-going struggle between evolving social understandings and reflex multi-level resistance will surely continue for many years. The obstacles you experienced, Mona, were simply different facets of the same struggle. We are all part of the same stream.

    • Thanks, Babs. As I’m sure you know, your relationship would be illegal in Minnesota, though I really don’t understand what that means. I can only worry about what it may come to mean. And now those in favor of a constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman are ahead in the polls. I don’t really know what that means either, but I worry about what it might come to mean. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure it will seem old fashioned in a very few years. In the meantime, it sets a terrible precedent that ought to scare everyone except those clearly in power. No longer a document to protect freedom, it will become one potentially to curb rights for people perceived as lesser somehow than the majority. Yesterday Doug and I saw “Tales from Hollywood.” The notes for the play reported that over 43% of the population voted for Hitler. Scary.

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