Couple: Patricia M. & Lisa G.
Married At: New Paltz, NY
Date Married: March 13th, 2004
Where They Live: New York
Our Wedding Story:
There is absolutely so much to tell - and our marriage is dwarfed by all that we saw, heard, and experienced today. I'll try and relate it all to you as best as we can remember.
We left Rochester at 3:00 Friday, March 12 and headed east. We'd packed the night before and checked our list and were really PSYCHED! We arrived in New Paltz at around 8:00 (just a bit before, I think) and registered at a local EconoLodge (clean and quiet, but by no means the Ritz). We took our stuff into our room, grabbed our coats and headed back out the door for some dinner. We returned to the room around 9:15 or so, and began to settle in for the night. I had decided to just do our ironing then so we didn't have to do it in the morning, so Lisa grabbed the bag and began to unpack....and realized that our dress slacks were still hanging on the back of our bedroom door at home. ARGGGHHHH!!!!
Well, to make a long story short, we drove around until we found a SuperWalMart and around midnight, went through the checkout with our replacement dress slacks. Of course the dressing rooms close at 11:00, so best hopes were all we had as far as fit. Too tired to do otherwise, we went back to the room and crashed and burned.
We were instructed to be at the LeFevre House B&B at 9:00 this morning. When we arrived the place was a hubub of activity, with cars lining the street. The couples were asked to drive up the driveway and behind the house around the loop, to form a caravan.
First off, this B&B is old, full of history, and in the process of rennovation. Owned and operated by Charles and Maurice (married in The Netherlands 2 years ago), it wasn't supposed to be open for business for quite some time. Enter Jason West, the 26 year old mayor of New Paltz with the mindset that he cannot refuse to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple. We've all got the history on that - Mayor West married 21 couples that first sunny day in New Paltz about 2 weeks ago, and another couple of dozen were married last weekend. Mayor West is currently under a temporary restraining order to stop performing marriages, having been charged with 19 counts of "solemnizing marriages without a license." Exit Mayor West, enter Charles and Maurice.
As most of you know, the village of New Paltz added a waiting list to their web site for possible future marriages. We got on that list almost as soon as the link was posted on the web site. Tuesday night we got a phone call from a delightful young lady who called from the "New Paltz Equality Initiative" (we think that's the name of it) - it turns out that Charles and Maurice have either founded or sort of head up this group. We're not sure of its exact origin but that, in and of itself, isn't important to the story. It'll be important to the HISTORY of this movement in future days, though.
Anyway, the B&B was packed - every room full of human beings. Twenty-six couples and their families and friends packed into this historic old house. The first group of 13 couples was asked to enter the dining room - which was furnished with a very large conference type table, capable of seating roughly 14 or 15 people. Charles read to us the contents of an email that he received from the ACLU, with sort of an FAQ type of content. Basically, to keep a lot of unnecessary detail out, there were opinions, and "positions" by the ACLU regarding the marriages being performed in New Paltz.
After some brief announcements, we were given our "Contract of Marriage" and "Affidavit of Marriage" and asked to review them for accuracy. Changes were then effected by a young man who had given up his Saturday morning to support the program. Shortly after that a notary arrived and notarized our documents. Shortly after that, a lawyer from the ACLU arrived and was introduced and basically his function was to stand by and answer any questions that there might be from the couples being married. Two clergy members arrived, both women, and they began signing our documents as well. There was a reporter from the New York Times there as well, who interviewed the clergy members who acknowledged that they were advised and completely aware of the fact that their actions could be construed as breaking the law, but it's our belief that because they're clergy, they may have some sort of "immunity" based on the "separation of church and state" principle. Nonetheless, these women were completely committed to supporting every couple there.
While the ministers were signing other couples' documents, I overheard Charles talking with the ACLU lawyer, telling him that the local authorities (who exactly, I'm not sure) had "demanded" the names of all the couples getting married. He later softened that word to "requested." He asked the lawyer if he was compelled to provide those names. The lawyer told him that they probably wanted the names to help build a case against the mayor or whomever else they were going to go after on criminal charges. I listened with interest as he told Charles that he was NOT compelled to provide those names unless there was a court order since, in effect, Charles was simply hosting a very large "private party" for lack of a better description.
At 12:00 we were asked to get into our vehicles to caravan the short distance to the wedding site. The site was a small parking lot with a small park-like stretch of lawn that was private propery owned by the proprietors of a business across the street called "The Groovy Blueberry." We drove that short distance with flashers on and horns blaring.
As we arrived, we noted the presence of at least four police officers. I was thinking "Wow, even the cops are supporting this!" and later we learned from Charles that these cops were working overtime to ensure safety, etc.
Some more announcements were made at the site. They performed two ceremonies simultaneously, at opposite ends of this small plot of land. Mayor West's Deputy Mayor gave some remarks, commenting that she was not there as a member of the town government, but as a private citizen who merely wanted us to know that she supported us all, and hoped that one day there would be a nation that allowed others like us to plan weddings on their OWN days, in their OWN terms, in their OWN ways rather than the way we "had" to do it today. She also explained that, for legal reasons, Mayor West could not be there but that he sent his best wishes to all of us. They also encouraged the crowd to shop in the village and, when we spent money in any store, to tell them why we were there. I assume it's to help the storekeepers understand that this is good for the local businesses as well.
I was amused when Charles read the now infamous "letter to President Bush" incorrectly attributed to Bette Midler." At that point, I didn't say anything knowing that the CONTENT of the letter was more important than who was credited with writing it. It was received with thunderous applause and many folks were in tears.
Finally the time came to start the ceremonies. The first two couples were called to the "stages" and you could have heard a pin drop when they "marched" down the aisle together, hand in hand. Another roar from the crowd as those marriages were completed and announced by name. Lisa and I were next.
Words absolutely cannot describe the emotions that coursed through us. I could hardly contain my joy as our moment had finally arrived - I wanted to RUN down that aisle! We stepped onto that stage, were greeted by the minister, and turned to face each other, holding BOTH of each others' hands. At that moment, nobody else was in my world except Lisa, the minister, and me. I looked into those gray-blue eyes, and saw my whole future and felt such joy and love that I cannot truly articulate how deeply moved I was by that moment. I realized that Lisa was in the same place as I was when I saw the tear roll down her cheek. The minister began to speak:
"Will you each love the other, honor her, comfort and respect her, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, and will you be true to her as long as you both shall live?
[in unison] I will.
Out of this tangled world your two souls have come together, drawn by mutual love and respect. By your free choice you have made a marriage. As all here wish for you a full life, a life rich in meanings and sharing, in caring and in joy, it is my joy to witness this marriage.
For as much as you have committed yourselfs to one another by the vows you have made and by the rings you have exchanged, therefore, in the name of Love and Justice, I declare that you two are one, life partners, married to each other.
May no one tear asunder those whom love has joined together."
From somewhere far away, I heard cheers and applause, and I heard the minister say "Will you greet each other with a kiss?" We kissed, then threw our arms around each other, both too moved to speak or move. We held each other and cried.
And so another 11 rounds of two sets of couples paraded up those aisles until there were no more. When the last two couples were exchanging vows, I noticed a young man in jeans and an old, worn-out Carhartt. Jason West was there. I took a couple of pictures of him and, as he finished talking to a woman, I reached in and offered my hand to him. He took it and I simply said "Thank you!" and the next thing I knew, I had my arms around his neck, hugging him fiercely and he was hugging ME fiercely. All I could say was "Thank you so much," sobbing as he hugged me.
Reluctantly but anxiously as well, we left New Paltz and came home, our lives forever changed by the day's events.
I think it's especially important to acknowledge the people who have put their lives on hold for you, and me, and every other same-sex couple in this state and country.
Charles and Maurice. Owners of the LeFevre House B&B. Not open for business, but they decided to open for business for those same-sex couples who came to New Paltz to be married. The house is not open for business because it's being rennovated - it's completely torn apart inside but still, instead of attending to their home, they've put it all on hold for their brothers and sisters.
Joshua(?). The young man who printed out all of the documents for the couples, and made himself available today for changes that might need to be made.
Eileen. Notary public. Again, giving her time in support of perfect strangers.
The ACLU lawyer. Donating his time as well to avail himself to us if we had any questions.
The Reverends Marion B. Visel and Katherine Greenleaf. For not only volunteering their time, but risking legal action to marry us.
The proprietors of "The Groovy Blueberry." For the property where the marriages were held.
There were no protestors that we saw. The only negative in the entire day was the police sergeant taking down names as they were announced. They can't take legal action against us, we know, and we're not sure what it was all about, but we surmise that it's to help in the case against those who officiate at these events. Lisa and I discussed it on the way home and I asked her "If it's illegal to do the marriages, why would they just take down names and NOT stop them? Isn't it their DUTY to stop something if it's illegal?" *shrug*
Our lives since that day have been no different - we live each day the same as we did before and we have vowed to not let the legal quagmire surrounding our marriage to suck us under the beautiful light of all that happened to allow us to be married on that beautiful sunny day in New Paltz.
One wonderful "side effect" to the way we were "forced" to be married is that we made new friends - couples in the same situation as ourselves. I can't think of many (if any) heterosexual couples who have the opportunity to make new friends on the day of their wedding.
I believe this is an important time in our nation's history and any and all members of the GLBT community, whether they believe in marriage or not, should do everything they can to ensure that the CHOICE to marry is there for everyone. We cannot sit back and wait for others to carve a path for us - we must each make our own way.
To quote a gay friend who spoke recently at a marriage rally "If you don't stand up for something, you'll lie down for anything."