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It's the Rights, Not the Institution: Anne Hartley Pfohl and Kate Gallivan

The First-Ever Artvoice Marriage Equality Issue: Couples Profiles

Anne Hartley Pfohl and Kate Gallivan

Status: Engaged to be married

Anne Hartley Pfohl teaches psychology at Medaille College. Her partner, Kate Gallivan, works in HIV prevention and testing at AIDS Community Services. They’ve been together for 15 years.

How did you meet?

Anne: Many moons ago I did some acting in Buffalo, and Kate knew of me because of this. I was doing a show that involved a lot of costume changes, and Kate mentioned to another cast member, Chris Kelly, that she would like to volunteer to be my backstage dresser. Of course Chris told me. Kate and I courted—going out with mutual friends, talking on the phone, going out for lunch, nothing more—for four months. Then I asked her on an official date. We’ve been together ever since.

How did you decide to get married? Was it something you considered before the change in state law?

Kate: Although we have made legal arrangements in the event that something happens to one of us, there are so many other rights and protections that are now covered. It just makes sense to do it.

Anne: We considered going to Canada. In fact, we had the minister and location lined up in 2009, but it never came together.

What are your wedding plans?

Anne: We have no plans for where, when, or how as of yet. Though we cried together in happiness when the law passed, we don’t feel any urgency about our own nuptials, per se. I do worry sometimes about sewing things up legally, you know, in case I drop dead tomorrow or something, but, then, I’m the worrier in the relationship. We have felt some good-natured pressure from family and neighbors. I promised them all we would make honest women of each other pretty soon. At this point, I think we are leaning toward something small and quick—no big wedding. Although, I also think we might deserve presents. Yes, lots and lots of presents.

Kate: We just want one big present—a built-in pool! Seriously, we will do something small and private just to make it all legal.

How are your families reacting?

Anne: My mother called the day after the legislation passed the State Senate, telling me she was happy that we could get married now, if we choose to do so. My sister-in-law texted me, “So, when’s the wedding?” My family adores Kate, and my father has told me, “She’s a keeper. Don’t fuck this up.”

Kate: It’s been interesting…and I think people learned a lot about this issue while the New York State Legislature was debating it. Many people take for granted that we’ve been together for 15 years but never thought about the fact that we were being discriminated against by not being able to get married.

Do you two have any reservations about the institution of marriage?

Anne: Yes, I have a problem with the institution. However, I am eager for the legal contract to be in place, so that, if anything should happen to me, she is taken care of, and automatically inherits from me. I also don’t want there to be any confusion that Kate is in charge, should I not be able to care for myself. But, marriage as an affirmation of our commitment to one another—to feel accepted and part of society—I struggle with that. We are the same as we have always been. Our “non-marriage” has lasted longer than many marriages. We work hard every day at our jobs, in our home and community, we love our families, and each other. I think we’re doing just fine, so, in many ways, the license is a formality. I hope it is also protection from those who still don’t accept us.

Kate: Yes, not about being married to Anne but just the idea of the government having a say in what happens between two people. I like how Anne described it.

What does the legal opportunity to marry mean to you, both as a couple and as members of a larger community?

Anne: At the risk of contradicting myself, I was very emotional during the last two weeks leading up to the vote in the Senate. I wanted this very badly—I wanted my rights. Kate is the love of my life and my dearest companion. With or without marriage, that will always be true. And I am glad our friends and family are so happy for us. I see their joy at this change in our laws, and in our outlook as a society. Part of that joy, for them, I think, is that the law reflects their true feelings as well. It affirms gays and lesbians, and also the people who love us and celebrate our lives together.

Kate: For me it’s the affirmation that same-sex relationships are legitimate relationships. If two people make a commitment to each other, and love and respect each other, who cares what their gender is?

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