Carl J. Minster 3d and David J. Facciolo are two very passionate men — passionate about their work and about each other. I spoke to the two dedicated attorneys about their practice, Minster & Facciolo LLC, and the trials (pardon the pun) and tribulations of being business and life partners.
PGN: Who got into practice first? DF: I’ve been a lawyer since 1980. I met Carl through a friend while volunteering for Rita Addessa at the Lesbian and Gay Task Force. CM: And I didn’t become a lawyer until 1997. With David’s urging and support, I went back to school later in life. My first job in the law field was in Harrisburg and he used to drive up every weekend to see me. DF: By our third or fourth date, I’d decided I was going to get him to go to law school. CM: In August, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our practice and we’re going on over 19 years together as a couple. DF: One of the things Carl wanted to do was become a lawyer to work for the LGBT community, but law school is so expensive we had to open a practice to recoup the loans. But we decided that we would be a general practice firm that served the community. Of course we don’t exclude anyone, but a focal point of the practice is helping people in our community.
PGN: So tell me a little about yourselves. DF: I was born in Delaware. My family used to come to Philly every weekend to go to different restaurants in Little Italy. I also went to Archmere Academy in Claymont, and we used to compete with all the Philadelphia schools, so I consider Philadelphia part of the Greater Wilmington area. My mother was a registered nurse who stopped her career to raise three kids and, after my dad passed away, she went back to nursing school at the tender age of 58. She’s in her 80s now and just retired a few years ago. My dad was a contractor with three engineering degrees. CM: I’m from Philadelphia. I was raised in Fox Chase and went to Northeast High School and did my undergraduate work at Drexel. I went to Widener University for law school. I started off in Harrisburg but then got transferred to the Wilmington campus. What’s interesting about that is that they don’t usually let anyone transfer from one campus to the other. The only exception is for marital issues. Since the school had a nondiscrimination policy, I went in to the dean and told her that my life partner lived in Delaware and that I needed to transfer and reminded her about the nondiscrimination policy. She didn’t know what to do. She looked at me and asked me how serious it was. I responded, “Two turkeys every Thanksgiving,” meaning that we have to go to my family’s house and then his and eat two turkey dinners every year! She said, “That’s good enough for me” and they let me transfer.
PGN: What made you want to go to law school? DF: It was something I wanted to do since before first grade. My father’s closest friends and one of my mentors was A. James Gallo. He was the first Italian judge in Delaware. Both of my parents were very active in politics. During the civil-rights movement, I was very cognizant of Louis Redding, who was the first African-American attorney in Delaware and was one of the lawyers who argued the Brown v. Board of Education case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. So I had two terrific people that were talked about at the dinner table to inspire me. I kind of knew that lawyers helped people, but I didn’t know exactly how. In third grade, my parents had me in speech classes so I wouldn’t be afraid to talk in front of people and that’s how I got started. I’m one of those few people who knew their calling early on. CM: I got tired of hiring attorneys. In the late ’80s, I worked in upper management for the IRS and got fired. I had investigators from the EEOC come in and they said that I was fired because they thought I was gay, and that there was nothing I could do about it because it was not a protected category, but I decided to sue anyway. DF: If Carl had not been a whistleblower and known where a lot of the skeletons were hidden there, he would not have gotten the settlement that he did, which allowed him to go to school. That was under Bush the first. But even after it changed when Clinton was in office, several of the agencies never issued the administrative directive even though they’d been given an executive order by the time Bush II was in office. CM: Now I share office space with the attorney who represented me! He’s straight but does all sorts of employment issues.
PGN: Any siblings? CM: I have one sister who is three years older than me to the exact day. We were both born on April 8. Talk about family planning — two years after they had my sister, my parents moved into a house with a third bedroom. Exactly nine months after they moved in, I was born.
PGN: So, I guess we know what they did to christen the house. Tell me about coming out. DF: For me it wasn’t difficult. I was very close to my dad. We had a custom where every year he would build new bookshelves for the books we’d read the previous year. In the year between college and law school, some of the books I gave him to put up were gay related. I told my dad that I thought I might be gay and he said, “Don’t worry about it. Maybe it’s a phase. But either way, don’t worry about it.” Now this is an Italian, first/second-generation gentleman. It was remarkable. What probably helped was that he was very involved in theater: We used to go to Broadway plays all the time. He also had friends in the theater who were gay so he was very open-minded. Interestingly, he never told my mother. When she did ask me about it, I gave her a book I bought on questions about homosexuality for straight people. She also handled it well after a few days. Now, she thinks the world of Carl. Publicly, I was forced out when they passed the Delaware version of the Defense of Marriage Act. Myself and about nine other lawyers went down to argue against it. At that point, I was in the public defender’s office and being publicly out was quite an endeavor. CM: I was about 30 when I came out. Living in Fox Chase, I didn’t think I knew any gay people. When I was working for the IRS, I traveled about 50 percent of the time, so I got to go to other towns and meet gay people there. Later, I moved to Philly and got involved with the LGBT community and organizations, at which point I came out to my family. At first they didn’t know what to do, but now my mother is great with it. Half the time if David and I have a fight, she’ll side with him. Her first words are, “What did you do wrong, Carl?” DF: And my mother takes his side! Our mothers get along really well: They’ll even occasionally do things together, which is nice.
PGN: What’s an interesting case you’ve worked on? CM: One of the things I’ve discovered is that a lot of LGBT people don’t know their rights, especially in relationships. They don’t know what they’re entitled to. We do a lot of estate planning and a lot of people will come from all over to see us, because they know that we will understand the special needs of gay clients. One of the things I believe is important is to get LGBT cases into family court instead of going into civil court as contractual matters. Family court judges are much more understanding of the relationships and personal components as opposed to just the facts on paper. DF: I worked as a public defender in Delaware for many years and was able to argue the case that certified translators for non-English-speaking people. To me, it’s the most important thing I’ve done in my career because it really guarantees fair access to the courts for all people. Many times even lawyers, if they’re not bilingual, will assume that the clients understand them, when the client might just be agreeing to be polite or respectful. I admire and respect diversity. It’s part of my lifeblood and to be able to help people in such a fashion was something I’m really proud of. The case has been cited in over 22 states. Currently, we do a lot of co-parent or second-parent adoptions in Delaware and that’s one of the most satisfying parts of the practice. One of the good things about our firm is that we cover so much territory. Delaware now has a protection-from-abuse order that includes same-gender couples — many other regions do not. A lawyer who’s not sensitive to the LGBT community might not be as aware of the issues and rights as we are. CM: For instance, in Philadelphia County, if you’re doing a second-parent adoption, you don’t need to have a home study done but in the surrounding counties you do. A home study can cost $3,000-$5,000, so if there’s a way to have the case heard in Philadelphia, you can save yourself a lot of money. PGN: So what do you do when you’re not practicing law? CM: We like to travel. When I was a kid, my parents would hop in the car and drive around the country. My goal is to see all 50 states. I have five left! DF: I’m into classical music. I’m a pretty good pianist and I used to play the organ in church during college. I also try to read three or four newspapers in French, Italian and English every day. I read a lot of nonfiction as well. On our last vacation I brought “1001 Hidden Tax Deductions.” I only got to about 700 of them. CM: I like nonfiction. I read about four to five books a week. I also do a lot of things in the garden and outside of the house, because he doesn’t like to ... DF: Ahem, I’m the decorator and he’s the gardener. He tends the grounds and I do the interior. CM: [Laughs.] Well, I didn’t have a choice. He said he wasn’t doing it, so I got stuck and it became my thing. DF: Yes, I carefully developed my allergies! CM: He has two chores: He’s the chauffer and he has to take care of the kitty box. DF: And run the practice in Delaware ...
PGN: Switching to something more serious, you were a public defender for 28 years. What was the most difficult part? DF: Well, we did a number of capital-murder cases. It’s very stressful when you’re fighting for a person’s life. Even when you think it’s open and shut, you never know. When you have a death-qualified jury, it means they have to believe in the death penalty, and studies show that they are something like 85-percent more likely to side with the state even when they’re trying to be impartial. You rack up a lot of hours and have to work with experts in four or five different fields. I loved it and am proud to say I’ve never had a client go to death row, but it takes a toll.
PGN: What kind of practice is M&F? CM: Kind of a general practice. We do a lot of family law, especially coming-out planning. We might have someone coming out who has had a family and wife or husband and needs our services. DF: A lot of times, we’re the second lawyer that they’ve seen because they go to a heterosexual lawyer first, who has the attitude that they should give everything away because they are the blameworthy party. The child-custody issues can be tricky too. We also do a lot of estate planning for LGBT couples. In Delaware, we do a lot of planning for heterosexual couples as well, but in Philly it’s more gay and lesbian couples. CM: We also do real-estate work, employment and discrimination issues, small-business advising, nonprofit work — we cover a lot. DF: When I was a young attorney, I did a bit of nonprofit work. I incorporated AIDS Delaware and did some work for ActionAIDS. Carl has a business degree from Drexel, so we can really merge our talents in those areas. He was an efficiency expert with both the Navy and the IRS.
PGN: OK, silly question: What kind of candy do you like or would you be? CM: My favorite is chocolate-covered pretzels. DF: And I would be a Three Musketeers. CM: Why? DF: [Laughs.] I’m going to decline to answer that.
PGN: What’s the nicest gift you’ve received? DF: I think the nicest gift we’ve given each other is that on significant birthdays that end in zero, we treat each other to a vacation at our favorite guesthouse in Key West. It’s so funny: Just in case, when one of us calls to make a reservation, they’ll say, “Shall we expect to see Mr. Minster?” if I call, and the opposite if he calls. It’s so cool. I guess they’ve learned over the years not to assume.
PGN: How do you make it work after so many years? DF: I think both of our parents taught us that if you really think someone is the one, you allow yourself to become entwined with them in several areas including career and finances, so that if you ever did have the temptation to break it off, you’d have to at least give it a second thought before proceeding. CM: Even in my cohabitation agreements with couples, I always put in a 90-day cooling-off period, so that no one can make any rash decisions.
PGN: Do you plan to get married? DF: I want to get married and think we need to make it legal. CM: I’m not worried so much about marriage as long as we can get the same rights as everyone else. We’ve come so far in the last 20 years that it’s going to happen, but let’s not worry about the word now. Let’s just concentrate on the legal rights first, and worry about what you call it when the older generation dies off! DF: I accept that as a practical reality, but I resent the fact that European countries, who started off behind us as far as gay rights are concerned, have marriage rights and we don’t. Also, as a student of “Brown vs. Board of Education,” I don’t believe in separate but equal. If I die, he’s not eligible for my pension. I worked for the state for many years so it’s a considerable amount. I did structure my paperwork so that it reserves a portion for a future spouse, so if we do get marriage rights granted it will apply, but I had to take a reduction in my pension to secure that. CM: And we have done all the documents we recommend to everyone.
PGN: My last question is for David: What’s with the bowtie? DF: [Laughs.] I started wearing it in 1980 when I worked at a small law firm. We used to do bowtie Fridays. When I became a public defender, I used a lot of books, even when I was making objections, and the bowtie just seemed to go with the whole bookish, intellectual part of my personality. It’s also kept me from being stereotyped. Later on I read a study that said that when you wear a bowtie, people see you as being authoritative, but also playful and able to bend the rules a little. It’s worked for me!