Written by Anton Community News Monday, 25 July 2011 15:15
”We’ve waited so long to be legally married in New York State, we just wanted to be the first ones out of the gate,” stated Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, who married his partner of nine years, Jim Stevenson-Mathews, at a service held at the City of Glen Cove Clerk’s office early Sunday morning, July 24, the first day that gay and lesbian couples could legally marry in New York state.
State lawmakers voted on Friday, June 24, 2011 to legalize same-sex marriage, with the law taking effect thirty days later. Commenting on the legislation State Assemblyman Chuck Lavine stated, "All New Yorkers are proud that our state finally recognizes this major step towards human rights."
This decision makes New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples are legally able to marry.
According to Gaitley, the couple approached the mayor several weeks ago, asking if it might be possible for the Glen Cove City Clerk’s office to open on Sunday, so they could marry on the first day the law would go into effect. Several other municipalities around the state opened on Sunday, including all of the boroughs of New York City; however, Gaitley explained to the mayor that they would like to be married in their home city of Glen Cove. The mayor replied, “I’ll do one better, let’s start the service at midnight on the evening of July 23.
Reached at his home early Sunday morning, the mayor explained, “While Glen Cove is a city, it is a very close-knit community. I have known Jim and Gaitley for many years, and was honored to be asked to officiate at their wedding. While I realize many people have mixed feelings about same-sex marriage, this is now the law of the land, and I’m sure we will have quite a few gay and lesbian couples applying for marriage licenses at the Clerk’s office. I’m equally sure this will not be the only same-sex marriage that I am asked to perform. As Mayor, I am a civil servant. I have a responsibility, under the law, to treat same-sex couples equally. Granted, I could have told Jim and Gaitley that if they wanted to get married on July 24 they would need to travel to Manhattan, and I certainly wasn’t under any obligation to perform the service starting at midnight. However, the City Clerk volunteered to come in at 11:00 p.m., and I was happy to volunteer my time, so this wasn’t going to cost the City anything extra. And, most important, whether I performed the ceremony at 9:00 a.m. on Monday the 25th or in the early hours of Sunday morning the 24th made no difference to me, and I knew it meant everything to Jim and Gaitley. They are great guys, and like so many other couples, gay and straight, they make a significant contribution to our city.” The mayor added, “It was a beautiful and meaningful ceremony.”
The ceremony was actually the third wedding ceremony for Jim and Gaitley. They were married in a religious service on May 7, 2005, at Saint Paul’s Chapel on the Columbia University Campus in New York City. The ceremony, which was covered in The New York Times, was attended by 200 family members and friends and was followed by a dance and reception on the campus of Saint John the Divine. On the couple’s fifth anniversary, they joined with another gay couple and a lesbian couple from their church (First Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove) and traveled to Connecticut to be legally married. The 2010 celebration was attended by about 80 people from the Glen Cove area, many of whom, gay or straight, renewed their vows as part of the celebration.
“While we would have very much preferred to have been able to legally marry during our first wedding in 2005, our multiple weddings have given us an opportunity to share our celebration with many friends at different junctures of our lives. And how many people can say they’ve been married three times, to the same person!” remarked Jim soon after the service at the Glen Cove City Hall. “We are so pleased to have the protections afforded us by having a New York State marriage license; however, we will always consider our religious service in 2005 to be our official wedding,” Gaitley added.
Many from around Glen Cove turned out for the early morning wedding held in the City Hall. While the service was a civil service, with the mayor officiating, given the grooms’ backgrounds and the varied backgrounds of those gathered, the ceremony also incorporated some religious and ecumenical elements. The Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove, the Rev. Betsy Simpson, provided an opening blessing, and the hymn “Morning Has Broken” was led a cappella by Rev. Bruce Wagner of Sea Cliff. Father James Beasley of West Palm Beach, read a passage from the New Testament, and Rabbi Judy Cohen-Rosenberg from the Community Reform Temple of Westbury read from the Hebrew Bible. Finally, after the Mayor led the couple through the exchange of rings and pronouncement of marriage, Cantor Gustavo Gitlin from Temple Tifereth Israel led those gathered in singing “Shalom Chaverim.” Thomas Motz and Paul Haywood of Patchogue served as best men.
The ceremony began at 11:30 p.m. with the declaration of marriage just after the stroke of midnight, making Gaitley and Jim Stevenson-Mathews the first gay male couple to be legally married in New York State, and probably the first same-sex couple married on Long Island.
Close to 50 people from the Glen Cove area attended the ceremony (see photograph). In addition to the Mayor, readers, and song leaders mentioned, other honored guests included, local poet Evelyn Kandel and State Assemblyman Charles Lavine.