Same-Sex Weddings Commence In New York
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I now pronounce you legally married.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
GUY RAZ, host: That's the sound of Kitty Lambert and Cheryl Rudd tying the knot shortly after midnight in Niagara Falls, New York. They were among the very first of more than 800 gay and lesbian couples married today in New York, the first day same-sex couples could have legal weddings there.
NPR's Joel Rose has the story from New York City.
JOEL ROSE: Outside the city clerk's office in Manhattan, the line of same-sex couples stretched down the steps around the corner to the next block and back again. But despite the long wait and the heat, nobody seemed to be complaining.
CARL WASSERMAN: Just a feeling of joy and happiness and sweating.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
WASSERMAN: But I don't mind it at all. It just feels great.
JUAN CARLOS PEREZ: We waited 26 years for this big day, and we're getting - we didn't want to wait anymore.
ROSE: As Carl Wasserman and Juan Carlos Perez of the Bronx waited for their turn to get married, they talked with the couple in line ahead of them, Gerri Paige and Christine Rice of Peekskill, New York.
GERRI PAIGE: We wanted to be part of history. You know, I think we stand on the shoulders of many, many people who were brave to make this happen. I'm humbled and proud to be here. Yeah.
CHRISTINE RICE: It's exactly the word. Just sort of humbled to be part of this...
ROSE: In all, 823 couples signed up in advance to be part of the moment in New York City, a number that's expected to set a city record for most weddings in a single day. Inside the Manhattan clerk's office, it was a scene of joyful chaos as couples milled around waiting for their number to be called so that they could pick up their marriage license.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: 737 and 747.
ROSE: Michael Casey watched and waited with his fiance Jonathan Frank.
MICHAEL CASEY: It's bureaucracy, but it's a bureaucracy of love right now, and that's just amazing to see.
ROSE: Normally, New York requires a 24-hour waiting period between obtaining a marriage license and actually getting married. But dozens of state judges, including Ellen Gesmer, volunteered to be here in order to waive that requirement.
Judge ELLEN GESMER: Just one of the happiest days I've ever seen in a courtroom - or in a city building of any kind.
Justice ROSALYN RICHTER: Oh, where did those beautiful rings comes from, ring boxes?
PAUL DE BENEDETTIS: Tiffany's.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
RICHTER: I was going to say...
ROSE: Finally, after waiting for about four hours, not to mention 17 years as a couple, Paul de Benedittis and Ernest Rodriguez found themselves in front of Justice Rosalyn Richter.
RICHTER: It is my pleasure to tell you that by the power vested in me by the state of New York, I can now pronounce you legally married. Congratulations.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
ROSE: But it wasn't a day of celebration for everyone. A handful of town clerks around New York state quit rather than grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ruth Sheldon resigned after 15 years as the clerk in the town of Granby outside Syracuse.
RUTH SHELDON: It was a tough decision to make, but I prayed about it carefully and felt that this was the answer that I needed to stand for what I believe. I believe that God designed one man for one woman. That's what I believe in. I have to stand for what I believe.
RAZ: Opponents of same-sex marriage held coordinated rallies today across the state, in Albany, Buffalo and outside the Manhattan office of Governor Andrew Cuomo. They want to see the issue brought up for a public referendum in New York, along the lines of the controversial Proposition 8 ballot question that halted same-sex marriage in California, at least for now.
ROSE: Back at the city clerk's office, Jonathan Barbicov(ph) and Phil Jeffrey say they know what happened in California and they're not taking any chances.
JONATHAN BARBICOV: Our rights are always tenuous, and we don't know if they're going to take them away, so we wanted to get it done.
PHIL JEFFREY: It could happen here, too, and we want to at least have the legality before somebody gets an idea to maybe take it away.
ROSE: And after waiting 17 years, they say a few more hours won't hurt. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.
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