Love Wins! Celebrating Marriage Equality in NY

Yesterday I got to witness history. I went into Manhattan to celebrate and show my support to couples that were finally getting the right to be legally married in the state of New York.

 

©Cristina Kollet 2011

This is a big deal. Here in New Jersey, where I live, we have Civil Unions. When I have ceremonies for these couples. The commitments they make to each other—and to society at large when they embark on life as a family—are the same as straight couples. The paperwork the witnesses and I sign is exactly the same too, but for one detail, the words “Civil Union” at the top instead of “Marriage.” The love and commitment is the same, the rights and recognition by the State of New Jersey, is not.

And yet it’s better than nothing.
The information on these is the same,
the names make them unequal.
©Cristina Kollet 2011
I saw this family walking
 to the Clerk’s office and I
knew I was headed in the
 right direction.
©Cristina Kollet 201

But in New York, couples can now be legally married! No explanations to people about how it’s “the same thing.” It is one thing—marriage.  And this was reason to celebrate. So in to New York I went.

Several of my Life-Cycle Celebrant® colleagues were also there as were, I was pleased to note, officiants of various other types—all of happy to show our support. Because, while they couples now have the legal right to marry, there are still many who will refuse to do so.
I arrived around 8:00AM and the line was already long, snaking back and forth through a labyrinth of temporary gates that wound single file around the building, then back and forth along the north west side, till finally couples rounded the corner onto Worth Street and their goal, the entrance to the New York City Clerk.

 

The couples lined up waiting to get married.
©Cristina Kollet 2011
©Cristina Kollet 2011

There amidst the Art Deco splendor of some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, the air was festive. Couples and their friends and family waited patiently, chatting amongst themselves and checking in with the staff members who were checking off names of couples who had registered for the lottery and won the opportunity to be married that day.

(New York has a 24-hour waiting period between picking up your marriage license and when you can be married. This can be skipped with a judicial waiver and many judges volunteered their time to make that happen. The lottery was put in place in answer to a very high demand for marriage licenses and in anticipation of the crowds. Only those whose names were chosen were guaranteed a wedding at the Clerk’s office on July 24. But it all turned out well, as you’ll see.)
Doors were set to open at 8:30 and as the moment approached, it was like New Years Eve! Everyone counted down to this new beginning, full of hope and promise.
Supporters were on hand and enthusiastic all day.
©Cristina Kollet 2011

I made my way around to the front of the building where the supporters and press waited. Police where there sorting people out.  “Are you pro or con?” I was asked. Definitely pro, I was directed to where people were lined up across the street. (The cons were ensconced on the next block. I’d seen them when I drove in. Supporters easily outnumbered them 3 to 1. In fact, as the day work on, I heard several people asking if there even were protesters because they were completely unaware of their presence.)

The first couple to exit, married!
©Cristina Kollet 2011

It was like that for every couple. Over the course of the day, the enthusiasm of the supporters never wavered. As people left, more arrived to take their place. They carried signs of support, gave gifts to the couples, showered them with rose petals and confetti and cheered them on.

©Cristina Kollet 2011
Every couple received a standing ovation!
©Cristina Kollet 2011

By the afternoon musicians arrived to serenade the couples and keep the festive mood. And still everyone’s eyes were on the doors and for every couple that came out, there was applause!

My favorites were the older couples—some of them in walkers ad wheel chairs. I had to ask myself, how long must they have waited? Had they ever even believed this day would come? I was so happy for them and so was the crowd.

A long wait finally over. This was the first couple to be married.
©Cristina Kollet 2011

 

©Cristina Kollet 2011

Reporters were circulating everywhere. I spoke to Voice of America and the LA Times.  They wanted to know, were gay and lesbian weddings any different than straight weddings? I answered, no. I’ve been doing Civil Unions in NJ since they became legal and every ceremony was about love and commitment and hope for the future.

©Cristina Kollet 2011

I have to extend kudos to the City of New York. When I heard news of the lottery, I thought they would end up turning people away. Certainly they would have more couples wishing to marry than the lottery would accommodate.  I came prepared to perform weddings on the spot should I come across couples who had both their marriage license and the judicial waiver but no ceremony.

 

I’m happy to say that my services were not needed.

By around 1:30 I heard one of the officers say he’d received word that the clerks would probably take everyone who came today. And sure enough, by the time I left, around 4:30, the line was gone. From what I can tell every couple that came and wanted to was able to get married. How wonderful! Well-done New York!
The entrance after the last couple had entered.
©Cristina Kollet 2011

 

I stopped back today with my husband on the way to another errand. The fan fair was over. The signs and supporters, musicians and supporters were all gone. The barriers that had formed the pre-wedding maze were neatly pushed away to clear the sidewalks.

©Cristina Kollet 2011

 

Inside, the office had a few couples, but there was no line.  It was back to business as usual, just with more variety.
By this point I had already read about lawsuits being filed as the “other side” tries to step in and take away these rights from people who waited so long.  It’s sad really, that these people should live in so much fear that they have to try to shut down anyone who is different from them. I would never want to live that way.
As we left, we passed a young lady in the outer hall. She was grinning as she straightened out her dress. It was flowing and full of color. We heard her say that she felt she “should” be wearing a dress and that her girlfriend had “asked her” but she’d been caught unprepared.
I think it was a lovely wedding dress. I hope she and her wife are happy tonight.
©Cristina Kollet 2011

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