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Same-Sex Couples Exchange Vows In New York
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Same-Sex Couples Exchange Vows In New York

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

As of midnight, New York is now the sixth state allowing same-sex marriage. In a bid to be the first couple wed under the new law, two women were married beside a rainbow-lit Niagara Falls, a few seconds after the law went into effect.

NPR's Jeff Brady was there and has this report.

JEFF BRADY: Getting married at midnight requires some creative scheduling. So for Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd's wedding, cutting the cake came before they tied the knot.

KITTY LAMBERT: Okay, go. Woo-whoo.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRADY: And then came a little dancing to Lady Gaga...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "THE EDGE OF GLORY")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) There ain't no reason you and me should be alone tonight. Yeah, baby, tonight. Tonight, yeah baby...

BRADY: And finally the actual marriage ceremony. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster learned that hitting your mark at the exact second isn't always easy.

Mayor PAUL DYSTER: By the power vested in me by the laws of the State of New York...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'll tell you when it's midnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: 12 o'clock - go.

DYSTER: I now pronounce you legally married.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BRADY: Most New York couples have to wait 24 hours after receiving a license to have their marriage ceremony, but Lambert and Rudd received a waiver. They're both grandmothers in their 50s living in Buffalo, and they've been advocating for gay marriage for at least seven years. Lambert says she wanted to be the first same-sex couple to be legally married in New York.

LAMBERT: That, and honestly - come on, look at her. Isn't she amazing? I don't want to wait a minute longer than I have to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMBERT: Not a second longer than I have to.

CHERYLE RUDD: Why thank you, baby.

LAMBERT: You're so welcome.

BRADY: Several hundred people attended the wedding. Amanda Morisette of Niagara Falls says she wanted to be a part of history.

AMANDA MORISETTE: It's something you're going to look back and look at the pictures and say, hey, I was there for the first gay wedding in New York. And it's probably going to spring for all the other states now, because we're one of the biggest states. So...

BRADY: New York's law passed by only four votes in the State Senate and there are many who still disagree with same-sex marriage. Among them, Reverend Peter Del Rio. He's affiliated with the United New Testament Church and owns a business here called Weddings by the Falls. He was pleased that New York's law allows him to abstain from performing same-sex marriages.

Reverend PETER DEL RIO: It was important to me, in that I was being recognized. A gay couple was being recognized and what they want to do. But I was also being recognized and I like that. I like the fact that someone was actually recognizing who I was and gave me the freedom to say no.

BRADY: Del Rio says he declines the two to three inquiries he receives each day from same-sex couples. He's not worried about the lost business. But there are others around town who see opportunity. In recent decades, Niagara Falls has lost some of its luster for couples looking for a romantic place to get hitched.

DYSTER: And this is an opportunity, I think, for us to redefine Niagara Falls as a, you know, a very exciting place to get married.

BRADY: Mayor Paul Dyster says Niagara Falls could emerge again as a big marriage destination, especially since it's within driving distance of where a lot of people live.

DYSTER: With four-dollar gas, this could be a very exotic, and yet inexpensive place for same-sex couples now to come get married from places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and other places in the Midwest.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BRADY: As part of the town's push to host gay weddings, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation has organized a group wedding for same-sex couples tomorrow. Four officiates will be on hand to marry couples and afterward there will be cake and champagne.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Niagara Falls.

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