Michael T. Clark, a longtime LGBT advocate, will wed Ronald B. Giemza inside their West Philadelphia residence later this month.
Clark, 59, became active in the LGBT community in 1976. He’s been coupled with Giemza, a former Catholic priest, since 1980.
They met at Dignity, an LGBT Catholic organization.
“Dignity was an important part of our lives at that time, and I’m grateful it was the venue that brought us together,” Clark told PGN.
Clark said he has enjoyed planning the details of his upcoming wedding.
“We’re doing a Quaker-style wedding,” Clark explained. “There’s no minister. You basically marry each other. So the couple is the minister. We’re having an old friend facilitate. Basically we’re inviting a small group of family and friends. A majority of our family members will be in attendance.”
Both men practice Buddhism, so the ceremony will have a Buddhist flair.
“One of the things we’re going to do, instead of rings — Ron cannot wear jewelry, it somehow starts to annoy him. So we’re going to exchange Buddhist prayer beads instead of rings,” Clark said.
The wedding ceremony will be held noon July 26 in their living room. A reception at their house will follow.
“We’re expecting 50 people for the ceremony itself, and probably about 100 people for the open-house wedding reception,” Clark said.
Giemza, 70, retired about eight years ago. He enjoys cooking, pottery and maintaining the household, he said.
For about 20 years, Giemza was employed at the Community Organization for Mental Health and Retardation Inc.
“Part of that time, I was director of mental-health services at COMHAR,” he said.
Clark is employed as director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden. He began that position July 1.
“I’ve been a nurse practitioner and educator for the past 25 years,” Clark said. “I’m starting a new position at Rutgers. I’m very excited about the new challenge.”
His LGBT activism had been on a hiatus for several years, Clark noted.
“I’m now re-entering activism in the LGBT community by serving as chair of the advocacy and outreach committee of the LGBT Elder Initiative,” he said.
Giemza expressed excitement about marrying Clark.
“It’s a significant, exciting new phase in our relationship,” he said. “I very much look forward to being a married man. It’s mind-boggling to me that we’re able to do this. It was a foregone conclusion ever since I was in my 20s that I’d never get married.”
Giemza shares many common interests with Clark.
“We like hiking together. We like the outdoors together. We like traveling and visiting new places. Every morning we sit for an hour or so, around 6 a.m., drink coffee and talk. And we both like our pets.”
Clark was asked if there’s a secret for maintaining a long-term relationship.
“You have to have a healthy sense of identity in order to have a healthy relationship,” he said. “You really have to have your own life. The partnership adds to it. But it can’t be the core of a person’s being.”