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Making it Legal, At Last: David Cantaffa and Anthony Laulette

The First-Ever Artvoice Marriage Equality Issue: Couples Profiles

David Cantafgfa and Anthony Laulette

Status: Civilly united, engaged to be married

David Cantaffa works at the University at Buffalo, and his partner, Anthony Laulette, works at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. In 2004, they were the subject of an Artvoice cover story: They’d attempted (and failed) to get a wedding license at City Hall, having already traveled to Vermont for a civil union. They’ve been together nearly 13 years. David answered some questions about their relationship.

How did you meet? And how did you settle on a civil union in Vermont?

We have been together for nearly 13 years. We met during Thanksgiving weekend in 1998 when we were both visiting family in New Jersey (at the time, David was living in Buffalo and Anthony in New York City). It was a chance meeting at a bar in northwestern New Jersey.

We did not “settle” on a civil union, but in 2003 we wanted to recognize and celebrate our relationship, and this was an available option. We held a private ceremony at an inn in Vermont in May and then a celebration with immediate family members in New Jersey during the following labor day weekend.

Compare the idea of a civil union vs. a marriage.

On the surface, they have a hierarchical relationship—this has been much discussed by others. The best way we can answer this question is to turn this around to readers who are married (or plan to be married). What would it mean to you to strip your relationship of the mark of marriage (because it was determined by others that you and your relationship do not qualify for the institution) and instead reclassify it as a lesser civil union?

Importantly, although marriage equality has been achieved in New York, there are impactful restrictions at the federal level and a majority of states continue to support inequality. There is a lot of work to be done, and the efforts in New York need to be a springboard for continued forward movement elsewhere.

Does the existence of the civil union present any obstacles to getting married now? Must you dissolve the union first?

Because the civil union has no legal standing in New York, there was nothing that needed to be done.

What’s getting married and having the right to get married mean to you?

This is difficult to articulate through words.

At the beginning of June, this possibility was not on our immediate radar. In the weeks leading up to the Senate vote, we rarely spoke with each other about the discussions that were circulating regarding the legislation. Individually, however, we did stay attuned to the news reports and David sent multiple communications to our senator. Twice, we were contacted about participating in an interview about marriage, but we declined—in fact, we did not even respond to the requests.

The night of the Senate vote, we sat in our living room, watching television and each on our own laptops watching the streaming video of the Senate floor and reading a blog from the Albany Times-Union. As the amendment to the main legislation was approved, we each had a moment of reserved joy, because it was clear that there was positive movement, but the vote on the main legislation had not yet occurred. After some bluster and delay from the floor of the Senate (and, importantly, voices of reason and clarity), the main legislation was approved. At that moment, we each had a rush of emotion: a mix of disbelief and elation, a pit-of-the-stomach rolling reminiscent of the feeling of being on a freefall amusement park ride, and tears. We hugged and cried, but were unable to say anything to each other.

For the next couple of days, it felt awkward to initiate the conversation about getting married, in part because we have been together for as long as we have (and although not legally married, to ourselves and to many others we already seemed married) and in part because the reality of the new legislation was still sinking in.

Getting married is important to us, but like we imagine is the case for most couples, the importance of this is something that we each understand for us, but not something that can be effectively distilled to a few words to share with others.

How do you imagine your wedding?

After deciding to get married, we discussed a few options for a wedding. We thought about something small, but we decided on something a bit more involved (but not too big), because we wanted to celebrate with family, friends, and coworkers who are important parts of our lives and supportive of our relationship. We have been able to organize our wedding ceremony and reception in a relatively short timeframe. From the start of the planning process, we knew we wanted to have this event in the City of Buffalo and to work with as many Buffalo-based vendors as possible. And, thankfully, the vendors with whom we have worked have been great in assisting us with the process. We are anticipating between 75 and 100 people, with about half being family members from out of town who plan to stay in Buffalo for a few days during the labor day holiday.

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