Couples celebrate first day of marriage equality with vows
by Lisa A. Fraser & Heather Senison
Jul 27, 2011 | 2936 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John and Aufemio Torres
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Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples made their way into Brooklyn and Queens Borough Hall on Sunday, July 24, as each opened their doors to recognize the first official day that same sex marriage became legal in New York.

Couples flowed steadily in and out of both buildings, many of them breathing sighs of relief and crying tears of joy.

One word - “awesome” - was enough to describe many of the couples’ feelings on the first day.

In Brooklyn, onlookers and supporters gathered outside of the Municipal Building downtown, cheering and congratulating each couple as they walked out, grasping marriage licenses and bouquets.

And Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was on hand to wish the couples well at Borough Hall, where the newlyweds were treated to free cake, champagne, and photographs to celebrate their nuptials.

“We celebrate love here in Brooklyn,” said Markowitz, who has been married for 12 years. “Love is love and we only wish good health to all the couples.”

Stacey Minondo and Barbara Tremblay of Downtown Brooklyn were the first couple to tie the knot at Borough Hall, as Judge Bernard Graham officiated the ceremony. In December, the couple will be together for eight years. Last year, they held a commitment ceremony among friends and family.



“We’re so happy that New York State has come on board with this,” Minondo said. “They really stepped up.”

Park Slope couple Clifton Murdoch, 55, and Paris Fields, 47, were breathing sighs of relief after being officiated at Borough Hall because of the benefits that legal marriage now grants them.

“We had to make it a point to come on the first day,” said Murdoch, a teacher. The couple met in Manhattan 24 years ago.

“It’s great that the state now recognizes our relationship,” Fields, an art dealer, said. “That has value. If something were to happen to me I wouldn’t want anyone else making the decisions besides Clifton.”

But what was a happy day for many in Brooklyn was not without some contention. Protesters picketed outside Brooklyn Borough Hall early Sunday morning, chanting anti-gay slurs and calling for the law to be overturned.

“We’re all children of one God Almighty,” said Markowitz. “If your religion prohibits same-sex marriage then you’re entitled to your belief, but today we are talking about civil marriage.”

In Queens, many couples also celebrated the special day by making their relationship official at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.

Couples leaving the building held their wedding certificates and wore sashes that read "Just Married."

One couple, Andy Chmielowski-Liu, 37, who grew up in Woodside, and Joseph Chmielowski-Liu, 42, of Baltimore, Maryland, could not contain their joy.

"It's a big occasion,” said said Joseph Chmielowski “It was life-changing. Everyone was so nice and helpful,”.

Together for less than a year, they proposed to each other on July 4 and drove all the way from Maryland to tie the knot.

According to the Mayor’s office, 659 marriage licenses were issued on Sunday, with 484 couples married by State Court judges throughout the city. Other couples received their licenses and will continue to be married during the week by registered marriage officiants.

Seventy-seven percent of couples issued licenses were from New York City, while 23 states were represented. Eighty-nine marriage licenses were issued in Queens and 121 were issued in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Borough Hall, Queens Borough Hall and all clerk’s offices remained opened for longer hours on Monday, July 25, to accommodate more ceremonies.

A look at some other couples who tied the knot or obtained marriage certificates:

Jen Cinclair & Trin Bostick

Together for 10 years, they are from Manhattan but met in a bar in Washington, D.C. After a summer fling that never ended, they got married two years ago. They were lottery number 401 and had to go to Queens because the 400 cap in Manhattan quickly filled up.

The experience was "awesome, even though the ceremony was only a minute, the judge was so kind," said Cinclair.

For her, the most exciting part of the whole experience was "when [the law] was passed." They celebrated by going to brunch and hitting the town after.

John and Aufemio Torres

Together for four years, the story of how they met “is not a fairy-tale story.”

“We met out in the city in a night on the town,” said John, a legal secretary.

They currently reside in Williamsburg.

Like many other couples, they wanted to be a part of history and were relieved to finally have the right to marry. “Now I can say, my husband’s at the deli, my husband’s at the laundry,” said John.

When asked if the couple plans on having kids, John replied, “we have a schnauzer, Douglas.” In other words, no.
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