Up Close: Curt Parkins and James Hazen

Up Close & Personal

Husband and Husband

When Curt and James published their wedding announcement in the newspaper over the summer, they didn’t think it was a big deal. But they were paving the way for same-sex couples in our area. Now, they’re getting ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day for the first time as a married couple. But they say there’s still a lot to be done in terms of gay rights. Parkins knows the legal battles first-hand. He works at Walker Comerford Law in Scranton and in the Public Defender’s office for Lackawanna County. He met James at a bar in Scranton three years ago, and the two of them hit it off right away. James, who works for Toyota, is an outdoors enthusiast, so naturally their first date was a hike at Bushkill Falls. Even though Curt is not so much an outdoorsy-guy, it was a case of opposites attract. One thing they do have in common, however, is their deep love for each other. On the holiday all about love, it’s even more pertinent for the Moscow couple to show love is equal. Meet Curt Parkins and James Hazen …

What are some of the things you do to promote equality?
Parkins: I’ve never been one to hide anything about myself, so I’m not the type of person to sit down and be quiet. I’m very vocal about it. We had our wedding announcement in the Times-Tribune, and that was important to us — not just to do what every other couple does, but to show people it’s OK to do this. And I think we were the first people to put it in there, the first same-sex couple from around here. It was important for us to show that this is fine, this is normal, just like everybody else, and you should be who you are.
Hazen: There were never any questions about it, either.  With anybody getting married, you’re like, ‘let’s get our announcement in the paper.’ It was the same thing with us. You do have people asking if you’re nervous or scared about anything. But for us it was just more important to announce, here are two people who are in love and are going to seal that by getting married, and there’s no reason anybody should be afraid of that or not want to promote that or really put it out there. So for us it was really a no-brainer but at the same time it kind of took off and became something else. There was so much said about it at that time and it was being shared on Facebook all over. There was just so much support and love from everybody. There were maybe three negative things said in that whole period of time, and it became something where it took on its own life.
Parkins: We got married last June, and we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii. And while we were on our honeymoon was when the Supreme Court decision on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) came out. It was funny, the one night I couldn’t go to sleep at all because they were announcing the decision. I was up at 4 a.m. on our honeymoon waiting for the decision. And I said “When we go back, I want to file a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania to get them to recognize the marriage.” And then I came back and one (lawsuit) in Philadelphia got filed. Someone beat us to it. But there is active legitimation going on in the state about it, so that’s what I’m excited about.

Being in the legal field, do you feel like that gives you an edge to help same-sex couples?
Parkins: Definitely. I had the general principles and I know what the law was, but after getting married in New York, I became more familiar about the law and what it is here. That’s definitely something I’m familiar with and I’m starting to get an expertise in. We had a client in a situation where they got married in Connecticut, came back here and unfortunately for that couple they were getting divorced. But legally they couldn’t get divorce in Pennsylvania, because Pennsylvania won’t recognize the marriage. But Connecticut wouldn’t divorce them, because you have to live in the state for six months before you can get a divorce in that state. So they were in a bind where they were legally joined and they couldn’t do anything about it. There are tons of issues that LGBT people go through with the law.

EC13UPC_2_WEBDoes it bother you to see couples who are similar to you, and maybe have been together less time, but they have more rights?
Hazen: Absolutely. It’s kind of redundant to repeat it because you see it all the time, like certain celebrities who meet somebody and can literally go get married and be divorced a month later. You hear stories about couples after a weekend, they’ve known each other 72 hours — they’re getting married. And it’s not even a question, nobody asks them anything about themselves or their love. It’s just like, you’re a man and you’re a woman, come out and get married. But when you have a deep commitment to somebody and you have a strong relationship and all you want to do is have that same ability, and we can’t do that here. We had to leave the state in order to do that. And it’s sad. New York is an hour and 45 minute drive, and I can literally drive to the city and have everyone recognize my marriage. It’s crazy to say, but it’s a different feeling when you’re there and you know that we’re recognized as a married couple. It’s just a totally different feeling. And then you come home.

Valentine’s Day is so often just about cards and chocolate, but do you think there should be a deeper meaning of equality?
Parkins: Absolutely. Especially now, when it’s such an issue across the country. I think there’s always a deeper meaning, especially for people who are in love. It is about love and not materialistic things. But especially when there’s such a debate going on in the country, it’s way more pertinent.
Hazen: The whole basis of the holiday is love. There are hearts all around, it’s the symbol of Valentine’s Day. And I think back to when I was a kid and you’d hand out the little Valentine’s cards. Even back then it was just all about showing love and respect and it doesn’t matter who you are. It’s about love.

How excited would you be if same-sex marriage became accepted in every state?
Parkins: It would be huge and I think it’s going to happen soon. Every federal court that is hearing the issue finds that it has to be legal, so that issue is going to make its way to the Supreme Court, probably within the next two years and I think it’ll be legal. So I think it’s just a matter of time. Maybe it’ll become legal in Pennsylvania before then, but eventually the states won’t have a choice because I think the Supreme Court will rule that away.
Hazen: I hope Pennsylvania makes the jump before it’s something that’s really mandated, just to have that support from your home state. It’s an exciting time to be a part of all this, to see the progression of everything that’s happening. There’s still a long way to go, but I think we’re definitely on the right track with everything. And it’s great to be a part of it. There are younger people who are looking to us because they see how normal it is and it’s really just about love.
— kirstin cook