A 'NORMAL' FAMILY Elysburg native made news with same-sex marriage, but says her family of four is typical
Alicia Terrizzi is a busy woman.
As she grills dinner for her family of four at their home in Limerick, she anticipates the start of another busy school year. As math department chair and a seventh-grade math teacher at Boyertown Junior High West, after dinner she will be attending a "Meet the Teachers" night.
Neither of her sons, Blake, 11, or Lance, 8, have football practice tonight, so dinner should be a nice break in their busy schedules.
Her spouse, a consultant at GlaxoSmithKline USA, a multinational pharmaceutical company, has a commitment later as well, speaking at Lance's elementary school as secretary of the PTO.
As a typical school year begins for a typical, yet very busy family, Terrizzi encounters something she hadn't expected: Her coworkers, on Tuesday, surprised her with a bridal shower on her first day back, complete with gifts and cake.
Terrizzi had gotten married over the summer and her colleagues wanted to hear all about it - well, all about it first-hand from Terrizzi. They had already seen it on the national news.
Why all the fuss?
Terrizzi, 46, a native of Elysburg and graduate of Southern Columbia Area High School, and her spouse, Loreen, 40, both of Limerick, made history as the first same-sex couple married in the state of Pennsylvania after Montgomery County Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans Court D. Bruce Hanes granted them and other same-sex couples a marriage license.
Critics say Hanes defied Pennsylvania law, as it remains the only northeastern state, and one of 35 total, that doesn't allow same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Theirs was the first marriage, though not the first license as reported by the national media later that day, July 24. The media touted the two as first in line, the first to make history, the first license. Theirs was actually the first marriage.
Terrizzi clarifies, "We planned on getting there early because we were leaving for vacation. We did get married first, but we did not get the first license. There was one couple before us."
Terrizzi and her family had planned a trip to Great Wolf Lodge water park that Wednesday. The kids were excited, they were excited, but their plans got a little sidetracked the previous night when they had learned through an online newspaper, The Patch, that the register's office would be issuing same-sex marriage licenses the following morning.
Hanes, the register, has been quoted as saying, "I believe I am on the right side of history and the law."
Terrizzi relocated to the Montgomery County area from southern Columbia County in 1996 and met Loreen through mutual friends. They share a bond of 17 years and wanted to tie the knot, but were planning on traveling to do so.
"It was important to us to get married. We're totally settled here, so were planning on going to Washington, D.C., to get a license. When this happened, we were like, 'Ooh, this is good, this is easier."
Easier? Yes, but in a mere three hours, the family had a whirlwind of a morning before their getaway to the water park.
"Loreen was off Wednesday and Thursday because of Great Wolf; we could check in around 1 p.m. We had set up with our friend, Christian, who is a Lutheran minister, to get married in three days," upon learning they could obtain the license in Montgomery County that day. Three to 60 days is how long the license is valid; three days is usually a required waiting period, but that wasn't the only obstacle they saw ahead.
"We fully expected, we would get this license and the governor would swoop in and say, 'Oh no, you don't.' So, when we got to the courthouse, they explained anyone could waive the three-day waiting period as long as they had a valid reason. We were going out of town, so we paid an additional $18, because they recommended doing so because they also thought for sure the governor was going to stop it."
Corbett has been clear he does not support same-sex marriages in his state. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), initially introduced in May 1996, is a federal law that defines a one-man, one-woman marriage. The Supreme Court on June 26 issued a ruling that declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. Section 3 states, "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'"
But Terrizzi and her spouse don't consider themselves outlaws.
"We don't consider ourselves some kind of crazy lawbreakers. We are law-abiding citizens; we follow the rules, but somebody needs to take a stand and say enough is enough. We were shocked the governor didn't step in that day. We knew he had to be wavering, but it took him a while to step in and try to stop it."
Corbett's general counsel announced July 31 his office will fight to defend Pennsylvania's DOMA after the state Department of Health's chief counsel filed a lawsuit July 30 asking that the court immediately force Hanes to "comply with the (Pennsylvania) Marriage Law and to direct the Clerk to immediately cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples." The Health Department filed the suit because it processes and tracks marriage records for the state. "Compliance with Pennsylvania law by its public officials is a mandatory obligation," the suit states. "Ours is a government of laws, not one of public officials exercising their will as they believe the law should be or will be."
Not all officials share the same desire to fight it, though. State Attorney General Kathleen Kane said early in July she would not defend the state against lawsuits questioning the legality of Pennsylvania's Marriage Act.
Nevertheless, whether at risk of being overturned or not, Terrizzi and Loreen are married and they eventually plan on having a bigger ceremony with family and friends to celebrate their union, possibly next summer due to their busy schedules. The July 24 ceremony, although historic, hadn't gone exactly as they had planned.
Terrizzi explains, "It was about 9 a.m. Wednesday morning" just after finding out they could waive the three-day waiting period, "I tried to get hold of Christian, but he was at work - he teaches at a theological seminary - so I couldn't get hold of him and we wanted to leave to go to Great Wolf because we didn't want to reschedule the rest of the summer. So, I quickly went online and searched for wedding officiants, and that's how we found the guy who did marry us. We ended up meeting him right after we left the courthouse and then we left right from there to go away. All in like three hours."
The Rev. Craig Andrussier, a nondenominational minister licensed to perform weddings in Pennsylvania, married the two in a brief ceremony in a park.
Just a normal family
One thing Terrizzi stresses is the normalcy of their everyday lives and their how underwhelmed they and those around them are about their arrangement - especially their sons' friends.
"There is nothing going on here that isn't going on in any normal household in America with two preteen boys involved in sports with two working parents." she said. "Here, in Limerick, our kids' friends saw us on TV and all of them said to their parents, 'Why are Blake and Lance on TV?' and their parents explained to them, 'Their moms got married,' and the kids said, 'I thought they were married?' The parents explained they weren't allowed to be married, to which the kids responded, 'That's stupid.'"
The couple also identifies with the Lutheran faith and boasts of support from strict Catholic relatives and friends.
"I was raised Catholic. Loreen's family was more liberal; she explored a lot of religions, but her family were also Catholic. My grandfather, who passed away last year was a strict practicing Catholic. and he loved Loreen. One of his very best friends wrote me a letter last week saying how proud he would be if he was alive. My grandparents are 95 years old and my grandmother sent us $100 for our wedding, which I was truly cracking up at. She said, 'Well, why wouldn't I send you a check? I send a check to everyone who gets married?' And then she said, 'It's about time we get this straightened out.'"
She said hers is nothing more than "your normal, middle-of-the-road, upper-middle class family."
No doubt we are living in pivotal times. Even Pope Francis was recently quoted as saying "Who am I to judge them" in regard to gay priests.
At a time when bullying has come to the front of the line as a major issue among young people, Terrizzi's family has no concerns and has faith in the progression of acceptance.
"Our kids are athletic, popular kids. I asked Blake, our oldest, 'Are you worried kids are going to pick on you?' to which he responded, 'Mom, really? No.' Down here it is a non-issue, which is why we are so amazed it's such a big issue everywhere else."
In fact, in addition to the boys' friends, many other friends had already assumed the two were already married.
"They had no idea, because why would they care? No one's marriage has been changed in the last month since we've been married. Our marriage hasn't affected one other marriage in Pennsylvania. There's no chaos going on; nothing exciting is happening here."
Terrizzi said after they had their nuptials, they have had an outpouring of support and have not personally had any backlash since the story broke nationally.
"People were emailing, Facebooking, some of my friends from back home cut articles out of the paper and sent them to us. We haven't heard any negative feedback at all," said Terrizzi.
Whether the validity of their marriage is at risk or not, Terrizzi wants people to know she and her family are not unlike anyone else, and she believes discrimination of gay couples is undeserved.
"There are a lot of families out there being discriminated against. People who know us tell us we are way more normal than most of the heterosexual couples we know. Most of the people we've seen and had interactions with who have gotten married are professional, well-spoken, contributing members of society. They aren't some crazy freaks. People who discriminate know people who are gay, they just don't know it."
Though there could be a battle ahead, the couple plan to raise their boys and continue to function within their busy schedules as usual.
"If they invalidate it, we're no further ahead or behind than we were. We've been together for 17 years. Years ago there were laws in the South saying black people couldn't ride in the front of the bus. It was still a law, but it was unconstitutional. Because it is a law doesn't make it right."
Name: Alicia Terrizzi
Current residence: Limerick
Spouse: Loreen, 40, a consultant at GlaxoSmithKline USA
Children: Blake, 11, Lance, 8
Pets: Two rescued greyhounds, Ginger, 8, and Carly, 5
Education: Southern Columbia Area High School; Bloomsburg University, master of education.
Employment: Teacher, math department chair and seventh-grade math teacher at Boyertown Junior High West