Friday, July 12, 2013

* My Mother, Gay Marriage, and the Hamden Town Clerk's Office, circa 1976

50th Wedding Anniversary, 1983

With my brother Chris (Kit) 1947

Lady Barbara 

and Hamden's First 

Gay Marriage License

This story, which I have firsthand from my mother's mouth , belongs in the annals of Hamden, Connecticut's history, but I doubt it will get there.

To understand this story fully, one has to have known my mother.  She was a lady, not in the snooty sense, but in the dignity sense.  

She was very tall for a woman, 5'10 1/2", stood proudly erect, and had a beautiful face, at every stage of her life.  She came from a broken-family and extreme poverty in New Haven, and, due to the Depression, never finished high school.

She taught herself to type, took the civil service test, and became Assistant Registrar for Vital Statistics in the Hamden Town Clerk's Office, our hometown.

She was in charge of officiating over death and birth certificates, fishing and dog licences.

 I joke that by the time she retired she knew everyone who had been born or died or  was fishing or barking in Hamden.

One summer afternoon she was alone in the office.  The Town Clerk was out as were the two Assistant Town Clerks.  She got an emergency phonecall from the Town Clerk in the next town (unnamed here) that two men had just applied there for a marriage license and when they were turned away were heard to exclaim that they would go to the Hamden Town Clerk's office next.

Remember, this is 1976-ish.  Only three years before, the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite had been interrupted live by a Gay protester who sat on Cronkite's desk holding a sign which said "CBS discriminates against homosexuals."

As I said, my mother was a lady. The highest value in a lady's code is never to make anyone feel uncomfortable under any circumstances.

She simply did not know how to tell this couple there was no provision for them to marry, without hurting their feelings.

So she followed her own heart.

She left the office wide-open and moved to another office down the hall.

When the couple arrived, they found there was no one in sight to assist them.  They left after a vain search  for an official to transact their business.

That, dear readers,  was my mother.

The same mother who I am sure would have accepted with untroubled heart, the lost and hated son of another mother stranded thousands of miles away,  a son who, two months ago, for ten long days,was denied a final resting place.

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