Declaring his ardor for a man 50 years his junior, former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford - a 90-year-old widower who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and advised President John F. Kennedy on civil rights - will marry the second love of his life on Saturday.
Wofford, who wrote of his plans and passions in an op-ed piece for Sunday's New York Times, described the reaction to his decision to make such private matters public.
"I've received an outpouring of warmth from friends and acquaintances new and old," Wofford said Sunday night in an email to the Inquirer.
Aware that people's perspectives on such a union would differ widely, Wofford said in the email, "To some our bond is entirely natural, while to others I understand it may be entirely strange."
Ultimately, Wofford said of his relationship with Matthew Charlton, 40, it all comes down to love: "After 15 years of partnership, Matthew and I love each other, and we want to enjoy the dignity of marriage together.
"It is right that the conception of marriage has been expanded to include all Americans who love each other."
Part of the generation that came of age during World War II, Wofford worked for many years advocating for the rights of others.
A Democrat, he took part in the Selma, Ala., march for voting rights in 1965, and helped organize the Peace Corps under Kennedy.
He was appointed in May 1991 to succeed Sen. John Heinz (R., Pa.), who was killed in an aviation accident, and then won election that November to Heinz's unexpired term.
Wofford was defeated in 1994 by Republican Rick Santorum, then a House member, who became one of the nation's leading opponents of gay marriage.
In his op-ed piece, Wofford declared that he eschews the notion of pigeonholing people.
"Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall - straight, gay, or in between," Wofford wrote. "I don't categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness."
Wofford and his wife, Clare, had three children. Clare Wofford, who once headed the major-gifts program at Bryn Mawr College, died in 1996 after battling acute leukemia. Wofford wrote Sunday of their close bond in 48 years of marriage and of the balance between him, a romantic, and her, a realist.
Once she was gone, Wofford said, he believed he was too old to seek or expect another romance.
Then, at age 75, he met Charlton, then 25, on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"I sensed a creative hour," Wofford wrote, "and did not want to miss it."
He added, "We both felt the immediate spark, and as time went on, we realized that our bond had grown into love.
"Other than with Clare, I had never felt love blossom this way before."
Asked why he decided to discuss his life in the press, Wofford offered the practical response of any marrying man with his nuptials forthcoming:
"I wrote the piece because we are getting married next weekend," he told the Inquirer.
Then, with a nod toward a new age of acceptance and understanding in the country, Wofford added, "And I believe it is right that such an opportunity is now available to all Americans who love each other."