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Newlyweds: John Carlino and Larry Leaven

photo by Jethro Soudant

The First-Ever Artvoice Marriage Equality Issue: Couples Profiles

John Carlino and Larry Leaven

Status: Married last week

John Carlino teaches teacher at Kenmore West and serves as executive director of the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers. Larry Leaven is assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Sweet Home Central School District. They were married last week. We spoke with John.

How did you meet?

We met March 29, 1995 through our late mutual friend, Chuck Brunelle. I had recently come out and had just met Chuck, Larry had known him for a while at that point. Chuck introduced us.

How did you decide to get married?

We had considered it for a long time, and had both been vocal about the discriminatory and unfair nature of the situation up until now. We had often said that we would get married if it were legal in New York. Although we could get married in other states/countries where it was legal, the burden of having to travel to do it kept it on the back burner. When it was clear that it would be legal in New York and then suddenly was, the conversation was more like “Okay, so when/how are we going to do this” with only a joking “Well, you haven’t asked me yet and I haven’t said yes” than a formal stereotypical, disneyfied “Will you marry me.” After a few conversations it was clear that we wanted to be married legally as soon as possible with Ian (our son) as the best man rather than waiting to do a more formal traditional ceremony. This is primarily to secure the legal protections afforded married couples including but not limited to property and inheritance rights, healthcare options, healthcare decision-making rights, etc.—the things that so many married couples take for granted that we never could. We’ve decided to have a ceremony and celebration for family and friends next year, so that we have enough time to plan, get a venue, etc.

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

It’s a very powerful feeling to finally have the legal right to do something that we always knew was rightly ours, but was being denied for reasons based in ignorance, fear, bigotry, and hate. It’s very uplifting to see that finally a majority of the people understand that the ability to legally, civilly marry has nothing to do with religion and that all citizens should have that right. It still is unfathomable to me that those who are most vociferous in their opposition claim that this law breaches their religion’s rights and the separation of church and state, when the reality is that what they would like is the imposition of their religious beliefs on everyone else.

Describe your wedding.

We went to City Hall on Sunday to get our license and made an appointment for Tuesday morning to be married. On Tuesday, we only had Ian there as our best man, and two friends who came to take pictures for us. We didn’t want hurt feelings by inviting some people and not others and trying to decide who could be there—the room was very small even just for the five of us and the judge who married us. It was also just too short notice to try to plan something appropriate for even a small party. By planning a “real” wedding later for family and friends, we’ll be able to celebrate and do it right with all of the people who are important to us in our lives.

How are your families reacting?

My family has been wholly supportive. Larry has been a part of my and their lives for 17 years and he’s was accepted as a member of the family virtually from the beginning.

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

I think that, as people who have been excluded from marriage as a legal and as the traditional social institution as it is commonly understood, gays and lesbians have been forced to define their relationships and partnerships from scratch for years. I believe that this process has actually led Larry and me and many others to a strong sense of ourselves as individuals and as a couple. I think that often people rely too heavily on their image of what a marriage and relationship should be—from having the perfect traditional wedding to living happily ever after—largely based on perceived and Hollywood-fabricated norms. Having nurtured and developed our own unique relationship over 17 years in a way that works for us, outside of the traditional institution of marriage, I think that we are in a strong position as we add a legal union to the ties that bind us. After 17 years, I don’t think there’s much about the institution of marriage that will catch us by surprise.

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