NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — Hundreds of same-sex couples married throughout New York on Sunday as the Marriage Equality Act became law, making New York the nation’s third-most populous state to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Marriage Equality Act, which was passed by the New York Senate in late June, amends New York’s Domestic Relations Law to state that a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex. It also ensures that rights, benefits, and protections relating to marriage shall not be different based on the parties to the marriage being the same sex or a different sex.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on June 24, just before midnight, and a 30-day waiting period was required before it became law. As such, the first same-sex couple was declared legally wed just seconds after midnight during a ceremony in Niagara Falls.
A number of marriages took place during the night, but hundreds of other couples from New York and from across the country said ‘I do’ throughout the rest of the day. Hundreds of other same-sex couples are expected to marry during the next few weeks.
In New York City, 659 same-sex couples were married. “Today was a historic day in our City, and we couldn’t be prouder that on the first day that everyone in New York City could have their love affirmed in the eyes of the law, we were able to serve everyone,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I want to thank all of the city workers and volunteers who made this success possible.”
One of the first same-sex couples to get married at the West Chapel in Manhattan was Daniel Hernandez, 53, and Nevin Cohen, 48. They met in 1998 and committed to each other in 2001.
The couple, who live in Manhattan, sued the State in 2004 to demand they be wed. They lost the lawsuit in an Appeals Court in 2006 when the court ruled that it was a matter for the state’s Assembly to resolve by changing the law.
Both men wore matching navy blue sport jackets with yellow orchids pinned to the lapels on their wedding day, which took place in a simply appointed room with a couch, a lectern, and a large painting of multicolored vertical stripes. Several old, huge, leather-bound tomes – wedding registers – were displayed on shelves behind glass.
Deputy Clerk Alisa Fuentes entered and took her place behind the lectern.
“Long time waiting, right?” she said, smiling. The two men smiled and nodded.
Fuentes then told the couple to lay their silver-colored rings on the lectern and then began to read a prepared statement about the importance of marriage. “As you now pledge your vows to each other, as many before you have done to the earliest days, if anyone has any reason to object to this marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace,” Fuentes said.
The two men laughed at that, and no one spoke up against their marriage.
“Will you have Nevin to be your spouse and live together with him in the institution of marriage?” Fuentes asked. “I do,” Hernandez said. The two men looked at each other and smiled. She reapted the question to Cohen, who also said I do.
“By the authority vested in me by the laws of the state of New York, I now pronounce you –” Fuentes paused, “– married.” The two men kissed as a group of four friends clapped and news photographers’ cameras snapped.
After the ceremony, Fuentes explained why she briefly paused. “I was going to say ‘husband and husband,’ but we decided to just say married,” she said.
But even though the nation’s third-most populous state now allows same-sex marriages, it remains a highly controversial subject. “From this sad moment in our state’s history, let it be our prayer that we witness a new appreciation for authentic marriage as understood by our Catholic faith and revealed to us by God through nature,” a message from the Bishops of New York State said. “We have seen so many threats to marriage in recent years, from widespread cohabitation, to infidelity, to exploding out-of-wedlock birth rates, to pornography and other addictions that undermine family and married life. Sadly, we have even seen rates of Catholic marriages plunge over the last four decades by nearly 60 percent. And now we see the state presume to alter what God already has defined and common sense can recognize as right and true.”
With same-sex marriage legal in New York, the state joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon which is not bound by the Oregon Constitution as they are a federally recognized sovereign nation. Several states also recognize, but not perform, same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, on April 1st, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community marked the 10th anniversary of the first ever same-sex marriage in the world. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to officially recognize and allow same-sex marriages after Queen Beatrix signed the marriage bill into law on December 21, 2000. It went into law on April 1, 2001.
In addition to the Netherlands and parts of the United States, same-sex marriage is currently performed in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. In Mexico, same-sex marriage is only performed in Mexico City.