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Dozens of gay couples tied the knot in Brooklyn on Sunday — on the very first day they could legally wed in the state — prompting a heartfelt celebration, tears of joy, and, a few protesters who hauled fire-and-brimstone-threatening signs all the way from Kansas.
Exactly 121 couples — old-timers who had waited decades, young women sporting sleeve tattoos with their wedding dresses and dapper men holding flowers — received marriage licenses on Sunday from the city clerk’s office, and 66 wasted no time in taking the plunge, getting married in the Municipal Building or going across the street to Borough Hall, where Borough President Markowitz was hosting a marriage marathon with Champagne, cake, judges and photographs.
“We don’t have kids — so this is our legacy: We get to be part of history,” said Annette Fisher, who has been with her partner for 16 years. “I can’t tell you what this means to us.”
Downtown residents Barbara Tremblay and Stacey Minondo were the first to exchange vows in stately third-floor court chamber inside the People’s House. They wiped each other’s tears and sealed their marriage with a kiss before Markowitz, his wife Jamie and a gaggle of reporters.
Next up, Bay Ridge couple Taz Vallas, 47, and Edwin Ramos, 54, were wed by Rev. Ann Kansfield, a lesbian pastor in Greenpoint — repeating a non-legal ceremony they performed 14 years ago.
“We always told people we were married,” Vallas said. “But today, the paperwork is filed, and nobody can take that away from us.”
The state’s passage of marriage equality prompted hundreds of gay couples to jump at the first opportunity to wed.
The resulting frenzy of marriage license applications led officials to create a lottery, but in the end, the city accommodated virtually all of the gay couples that wanted a marriage license on Sunday, though some couples did not use it immediately.
Geraldine Whitsett and Barbara Pilgrim — both of Park Slope — were so eager to officially tie the knot, despite being together for 48 years, that they were the first two people in line at the Municipal Building on Joralemon Street.
Only a paperwork snafu prevented them from being the first same-sex couple to be wed legally in Brooklyn.
That honor went to Bobby Amagna and Mike Furey, who were just behind Whitsett and Pilgrim in line.
All morning, happy twosomes held up marriage licenses and embraced outside the building as supporters cheered and reporters asked questions and photographers demanded kisses for the cameras.
“How do I feel?” said Rhonda Waldon, who met her partner upstate 16 years ago. “I feel like it’s about bleepin’ time.”
Nearby, a small crowd of protesters waved signs that read, “Fag lover Cuomo” and “God hates fags,” the slogan of the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist group.
“No matter how many people support this, God isn’t going to change His mind,” said Ben Phelps, a member of the church. “God said fag marriage is an abomination.”
Gay rights supporters offered their own, much-larger counter-protest, with one sign reading, “It’s a nice day for a gay wedding!” Most celebrants barely noticed Phelps and his group, which disappeared after about an hour.
Inside Borough Hall, a priest, a rabbi and judges performed wedding ceremonies, and gay marriage supporter Julie Irwin and her husband Steve Landis offered up their 4-year-olds as “volunteer flower girls.”
“We explained to them that yesterday only a boy and a girl could get married,” Irwin said. “We wanted them to understand what equality is.”
Newlywed Joseph Costello, who met his husband online two years ago, was touched by such gestures. “This is the ultimate validation,” he said. “It’s a great day for civil rights.”
Borough President Markowitz — who has long championed gay marriage — agreed.
“In spite of a few misguided people,” he said, gesturing towards Phelps and his group. “We celebrate love here in Brooklyn.”
The marriage ceremonies came exactly one month after the state Senate abandoned years of opposition and cleared the way for gender-neutral marriages. The Senate bill passed with only one Brooklyn lawmaker on the wrong side of history: Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), who said that his Christian faith prevented him from accepting the notion that a man could sign a marriage contract with another man.
Queens cantor Sandra Goodman, who joined Judge Bernie Graham and federal Judge James Orenstein in conducting weddings at Borough Hall, did not share Golden’s view of the history transpiring at Borough Hall, across the city and all over the state on Sunday.
“We’re changing the world today,” Goodman said.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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