After Long Wait, Same-Sex Couples Marry in New York

July 25, 2011


From New York City to Niagara Falls, N.Y., hundreds of gay and lesbian couples across the state began marrying on Sunday — the first taking their vows just after midnight — in the culmination of a long battle in the Legislature and a new milestone for gay rights advocates seeking to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation.

Outside the city clerk’s office in Lower Manhattan, an orderly crowd had gathered in sweltering temperatures alongside metal police barriers hours before the doors opened about 8:45 a.m., prompting a cheer. At least one veil was in evidence.

Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, who have been together in Manhattan for 23 years, were the first couple in, receiving a waiver from the rule requiring 24 hours between a license and a ceremony. They were ushered right into the chapel. Ms. Kopelov used a gray walker as they were married by the city clerk, Michael McSweeney.

As Mr. McSweeney declared to the couple, “I now pronounce you married,” Ms. Siegel held Ms. Kopelov’s head and kissed her on the left cheek.

The first male couple, Marcos A. Chaljub, 29, and Freddy L. Zambrano, 30, both of Queens, wore matching white shirts, green ties and black and white boat shoes — even their beards matched. After the newlyweds kissed for 12 seconds, a friend tossed rice grains out of a Ziploc bag.

In New York City, 823 couples had signed up in advance to get marriage licenses on Sunday. Marriage offices in each borough were open, with some drawing more than others. In some places, small groups of protesters with signs were on hand as well, denouncing the new law. But there were no reports of major disturbances.

By late morning, hundreds of people were still waiting in line outside the office in Manhattan. Those who emerged after being married were greeted with cheers from passers-by, a cadre of journalists seeking interviews and even the congratulations of police officers assigned to keep order.

The City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who is openly gay, witnessed the first marriages in Manhattan. “To hear a judge say, ‘By the laws of our state’? It sent a chill up my spine,” Ms. Quinn said.

Outside the five boroughs, more than a dozen other cities and towns from Buffalo to Brookhaven opened their offices to issue licenses, and over 100 judges across the state volunteered to officiate.

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