Same-Sex Couples Say ’I Do!’ in New York

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Sunday July 24, 2011

Same-sex couples across New York said "I do!" on Sunday, July 24, as the state's marriage equality law took effect.

Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd of Buffalo became the first gay or lesbian couple to legally marry when they exchanged vows at Niagara Falls immediately after the law took effect.

"After eight years of fighting for this, it feels amazing to actually get to the day when all the hard work comes to fruition," Lambert told EDGE in the days leading up to her and Rudd's wedding.

Dale Getto and Barb Laven were among the 10 same-sex couples who married in Albany shortly after midnight. Westbury residents Francisco Fuentes and Patrick Simeone became the first same-sex couple to be legally married on Long Island after they exchanged vows at North Hempstead Town Hall in Manhasset around the same time.

Phyllis Siegel,77, and Connie Kopelov, 85, became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in New York City after they tied the knot at the City Clerk's office in lower Manhattan. New York City Clerk Michael McSweeney officiated the ceremony, while New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn watched.

"It was just so amazing," Siegel told the New York Post. "It's the only way I can describe it. I lost my breath and a few tears."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg officiated the wedding of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz and chief policy adviser John Feinblatt at Gracie Mansion. The two men are among the more than an estimated 600 same-sex couples who married in the five boroughs on Sunday.

Stacey Minondo and Barbara Tremblay were the first same-sex couple to marry at Brooklyn's Borough Hall. Passersby congratulated the Brooklyn women as they emerged from a taxi outside the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan still wearing their wedding dresses.

John and Eufemio Torres are legally married in Vermont, but the Brooklyn men stressed they wanted to tie the knot where they live. "It was important for us to participate in today's event," said Torres as he and his husband attended the Center's wedding reception. "I'm from Brooklyn. We live in Brooklyn. We were on our home turf."

Manhattan residents Connie Kurtz and Ruth Berman obtained their marriage license earlier on Sunday, and they will marry at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, July 26.

"Our engagement is 36-years long," said Kurtz as she and her fiancée mingled among other same-sex couples at the Center. "We fought for this."

Cherry Grove residents hoisted two large American and Pride flags at the end of the Fire Island hamlet's dock to commemorate the historic milestone. Not everyone, however, celebrated same-sex couples' newfound right to marry in the Empire State.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, were among the several thousand people who rallied in Midtown Manhattan against nuptials for same-sex couples. They called for a referendum to allow New York voters to decide the issue.

NOM also organized other protests around the state.

"No matter what anyone says, this is the law of the state of New York and it is going to stay that way, said Quinn to enthusiastic cheers and applause from those gathered at the Center. "And that it why that simple line-I now with the authority invested in me by the laws of the state of New York-will never is the same again."

State Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan] and his partner of more than 18 years, Louis Webre, congratulated recently married same-sex couples who came to the Center. He and Webre have yet to plan their own wedding, but Duane simply reveled in the moment.

"It's just a happy, happy day," he said.


Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.