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Marriage Comes to Cape Cod

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Provincetown draws gay and lesbian couples from across Massachusetts and the U.S.

Provincetown, the small fishing village on the tip of Cape Cod which grew first into an artist’s colony and later a mecca for vacationing gay men and lesbians, has been a focal point of attention and activity since same-sex marriage became a reality in Massachusetts on May 17.

With 152 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples on that day, only Boston and Cambridge saw a bigger burst of wedding activity than P-Town. Those numbers were fattened no doubt by the fact that Provincetown was one of only four communities in the state that (temporarily, it turned out) defied Gov. Mitt Romney’s edict that no out-of-state couples who fail to affirm that they plan to move to Massachusetts be given licenses, but the community’s status as a prime locale for summering guarantees an extended season of weddings there.

After sharing their lives together for 14 years, Judy Cox and Pat Pimental, who live up-Cape, as it is known locally, in Plymouth, decided that May 22 was the time to make it legal. The couple gathered with seven family members at Bayside Betsy’s, a small café on the bay known for its chowder, after an intimate wedding at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House officiated by Dianne Koepser, a justice of the peace.

“I never thought we’d see marriage in this lifetime, just civil unions,” said Cox, who is 51.

Cox and Pimental, 59, have, during their years together, taken every step they could think of to protect their relationship.

“It cost thousands of dollars to legalize our union,” Cox said, explaining that the couple have named each other as health care proxies, given each other power of attorney and established an irrevocable trust.

Now, for the $10 cost of a wedding license, Cox and Pimental have added a profound legal layer of protection.

But Cox emphasized that their marriage had important social significance.

“We wanted to do the marriage as soon as possible,” she said.

Cox added the effort being waged by the Massachusetts governor to reverse the state’s high court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage—perhaps by voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 2006—played a role in the couple marrying promptly after May 17.

“We have no trust in Romney, or the people who want to overturn it,” Cox said.

The couple said their families and community have been supportive of their union.

Cox, who has relatives in conservative parts of Appalachia, says her family has rallied to her side, as have the students she teaches in a Plymouth school.

“A lot were surprised that it wasn’t legal,” Cox said of her students. “One girl baked a cake for us before we left for the weekend.

Pimental said one of her sisters experiencing problems with her husband told the couple how much she admires their relationship.

Despite the fact that the couple is out, open, and accepted in Plymouth, they chose Provincetown for the wedding because it was a resort getaway they frequented as they were falling in love. They plan a bigger, garden-style marriage celebration in Plymouth this summer.

The couple reflected both wonderment about their opportunity to marry legally and a solid confidence in the permanence of their union, regardless of the law.

“Until last Friday, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen,” Cox said. Pimental, her wife, quickly added, “We’ve considered ourselves married for 14 years anyway.”

Not every couple who married in Provincetown enjoys the security that Cox and Pimental have found in their lives.

A bi-national couple from Jersey City traveled to Cape Cod in the hopes of lending some permanence to a relationship threatened by unfriendly federal immigration laws. Michael Petronio, 46, met a 36-year-old Indonesian man, whose full name is Astomi, here in Manhattan, in Central Park, more than seven years ago. While Astomi at one point risked being deported, he has now been granted what Petronio called “withholding status,” allowing him to stay for the time being and to work.

Yet Astomi’s future remains uncertain, and the couple could not say what effect their marriage might have on securing their lives together.

“It’s the time,” Astomi said. “I’ve been through a hard time in the U.S. with immigration. Hopefully, I can apply for a green card.”

Several days after marriages began in Massachusetts, Romney demanded the license records from Provincetown and the other communities that defied his ban on out-of-states marriages, and the governor vowed to invalidate unions that don’t conform to his rules.

Nor is it clear how New Jersey will treat the couple’s marriage. Petronio said they are uncertain what if any legal steps they will take in the short term to gain recognition in their home state. Meanwhile, a Lambda Legal lawsuit pressing for same-sex marriage in New Jersey continues to work its way through the state courts.

But for the couple, Provincetown was about love and celebration.

Petronio and Astomi were wed on Race Point Beach close to the tip of the Cape in a ceremony witnessed by 20 friends and family. Wearing batik designs, long skirts, and felt head-dresses, the two Muslim men celebrated their wedding by incorporating symbols from three Eastern religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. They poured a glass of sand over a crystal structure “symbolizing eternity and the joining of their souls,” Petronio explained. The marriage rites were celebrated by four reiki masters under the guidance of Justice of the Peace, Joan Drysdale.

“I think it’s time we’re recognized, once and for all,” Petronio said, before speculating on the volatile future of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. “They’re not going to go back on that. It already involves thousands of people.”

Petronio was given away by his sister-in-law, Suzanne Petronio, whose 11-year-old daughter Lauren spread flowers among those who gathered at the beach.

“I’m happy. I’m not embarrassed to tell my friends,” Lauren, who was joined by her younger brother, said proudly.

“The kids already knew about Michael,” Suzanne explained. “In fact, they asked me, before I even knew, if he was gay.”

For other couples, a Provincetown wedding is a hometown affair.

Trevor Pinker and Stephen Mascilo met 30 years ago while both were studying at Oxford University in England.

“We were committed to each other within 24 hours of meeting each other,” said Pinker, who is 54.

The couple will marry on May 27, Mascilo’s 56th birthday.

James Mack, a fellow guesthouse owner and friend, will serve as the justice of the peace. Three of their close friends will read excerpts from “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

The two men, who have lived in Provincetown since 1994, own the Beacon Light and the Oxford Guesthouses.

Pinker and Mascilo originally exchanged rings 20 years ago in Florence, but they will do so again this week at the home now that same-sex marriage is a reality on Cape Cod. Roughly 60 guests will take part in their marriage. Afterward, Pinker said, champagne and finger food will be served in an outdoor garden at the Oxford House.

Their honeymoon will be a quick overnight stay in Boston, so that they can return to prepare for what promises to be a big season on the Cape.

“For so many people, for so many years, P-town has been a haven where gay people feel safe,” Pinker said.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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