It has been a good week to be a queer American. On Wednesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced to Congress the Respect for Marriage Act, a new bill supported by the White House that seeks to finally repeal DOMA; on Friday, President Obama put the final nail in the coffin of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” certifying that the military’s ban on gay and lesbian soldiers will end on September 20th; and yesterday, same-sex couples in New York were finally able to get married.
On Sunday, New York became the largest state to make marriage equality a reality. City halls and marriage bureaus are generally closed on the weekend, but many of them opened their doors yesterday, saying that gay and lesbian New Yorkers have waited long enough for the opportunity to wed. In New York City, 659 couples waited patiently in a queue that stretched for several blocks, while mayors Paul Dyster of Niagra Falls, Jerry Jennings of Albany, and Richard Scalera of Hudson performed same-sex ceremonies just as the clocks chimed midnight.
Here are eight wedding stories from New York that will make your day.
In New York City, Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopolev 85, were the first couple to be married on Sunday morning. Koplev arrived at the marriage bureau in a wheelchair, but stood with the assistance of a walker during the ceremony. Siegel took Koplev’s hand and they grasped the walker together as they made their vows. When they emerged from the bureau, the couple, who have been together 23 years, were met with raucous cheers by the waiting crowd. Koplev, seated in her wheelchair, thrust their marriage certificate into the air, and Siegel told reporters, “I am breathless. I almost couldn’t breathe. It’s mind-boggling. The fact that’s it’s happening to us — that we are finally legal and can do this like everyone else.”
In Albany, where much of the battle for marriage equality played out, Mayor Jennings performed the marriage of two of his longtime friends in a private ceremony in his chambers at City Hall. Jennings says that he declared Dale Getto and Barbara Laven officially married “right at 12-oh-one-second.” The couple, both 53, arrived in a white stretch Cadillac Escalade, but told friends and reporters not to judge them too severely for their choice of automobile; it was all they could rent on such short notice with the horse race going on in Saratoga Springs. After the ceremony, Laven brushed rice out of Getto’s hair and told reporters they were “working it,” taking their Escalade to a club to celebrate.
In Hudson, after 35 years together, Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce said their vows at 12:01. They were married at Time & Space, a bakery-turned-performing arts center they’ve operated together for the past 15 years. During their rehearsal the day before, Mussmann got so choked up when saying “I, Linda, take you, Claudia,” that it took her several minutes to recover and finish her practice vows. Not so on the night of their wedding. Mussmann and Bruce were feeding one another cake by 12:03.
In Niagra Falls, at the stroke of midnight, Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd were married in front of the rainbow-colored Falls while their children and grandchildren watched. When Mayor Dyster got to the part of the ceremony where he asked Lambert if she was making the decision of her own free will, she exclaimed, “Yes, yes, yes!” The couple — “just ordinary grandmas,” according to Lambert — had already danced to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” at a reception before their official ceremony, while 100 of their friends and family sang along and waved rainbow flags.
On Long Island, Dina Mazzaferro and Robin Leopold, were married at North Hempstead town clerk’s office with their eight-year-old daughter and Robin’s mother as their witnesses. During the ceremony, Robin’s mother was overcome by tears of joy for her daughter and her partner of 15 years, tears that were made sweeter as their daughter mouthed her mothers’ vows along with them. She’d memorized them while watching them practice, waiting for the day it’d be legal for them to say them in an official ceremony.
Long Island wasn’t the only place for proud mothers. In Albany, Harold Lohner and Al Martino, college professors and partners of 15 years, were married shortly after midnight, with Lohner’s 78-year-old mother in attendance. She told reporters that she’d never been out at midnight before, prompting her son to chime in that she’d never been out after 9 p.m. before. She said she took a nap to prepare for her son’s long-awaited wedding. “I’m very happy for [him],” she said. “It’s about time!”
Broadway celebrated marriage equality, too. In front of the city clerk’s office, Avenue Q’s Rod and Ricky exchanged vows. In the last six years, the couple has fallen in love more than 6,000 times on stage, and on Sunday they made their commitment official. Kate Monster joined them as their flower girl.
Of course, the day wouldn’t have been complete without protesters of the Westboro Baptist Church variety expressing their hatred and bigotry. But they were barely heard. In New York City, where one Times reporter noticed that the marriage queue ended at an intersection known as “Avenue of the Strongest,” LGBT advocates stood alongside the line of waiting couples, shielding them from protesters with rainbow umbrellas. In Queens, protesters left after an hour, prompting one newlywed to shout, “God hates quitters!” During an interview with The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee, a Times reporter tweeted that the lone, last protester was chased away, “down the sidewalk by a rollerskating woman in sequined bra, bridal veil, and angel wings.”
Check out some of our favorite photos from Sunday on the next page!