Written by Linda Portney Goldstein Friday, 29 July 2011 00:00
Sunday, July 24, was the day that the New York State Marriage and Equality Act, which was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 24, went into effect. As happened throughout the state, the Town of North Hempstead opened the Town Clerk’s Office to issue marriage licenses and perform weddings.
If you were one of the fortunate people to be at Town Hall on Sunday, you were not only a witness to history being made but you were also privileged to share in the very joyous and moving marriage ceremonies of a number of same-sex couples who were surrounded by loving and proud families.
There was stiff competition to be the first same-sex couple wed in New York State. A lesbian couple at Niagara Falls now holds the distinction of being the first in state, saying “I do” at 12:01 a.m. Locally, the very first same sex wedding in North Hempstead took place during a candle lit ceremony at 12:28 a.m. at the Mary Jane Davies Gazebo opposite Town Hall in Manhasset. The couple, Patrick Simeone and Francisco Fuentes, had been married in Canada to commemorate their 20-year anniversary together but was anxious to mark their upcoming 23-year anniversary by marrying in their home state. Their certificate was issued at 12:01 a.m.; making them one of the first same-sex couples to receive a marriage certificate in Nassau County. They then walked across the street to the gazebo for the romantic ceremony.
When Town Hall reopened Sunday morning at 10 a.m., the annex, where Town Clerk Leslie Gross has her office, was packed with couples waiting to obtain marriage certificates and to be married. Graciously, the town provided sweets and some floral decorations. The mood was festive and emotional.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room as Marcia Kramer and Vanessa Weiss with hands tightly intertwined wed at 10 a.m. The Honorable Judge Dana Winslow presided over the ceremony. Ms. Weiss and Ms. Kramer have been together for 24 years. Although they had a commitment ceremony early in their relationship, they were overcome with emotion as they became a married couple sanctioned by New York State law. When asked if they were going to do anything special for the rest of the day, the couple said that they would be celebrating poolside with their neighbors in Long Beach. As with many of the couples interviewed, they expressed gratitude to Governor Cuomo and a hope that President Obama will carry the issue forward on the federal level. Even though Kramer and Weiss are now legally married, Ms. Weiss said neither is entitled to the other’s survivor benefits under federal Social Security regulations.
As with all weddings, each ceremony took on its own character and reflected the personalities of the couple. John Burcyzyk and Antonino Puglia of Westbury tied the knot in stylish tuxedos. Town Clerk Leslie Gross performed the ceremony with participation by Councilman Fred Pollack and Councilwoman Lee Seeman. About 50 friends and family cheered and cried as Town Clerk Gross pronounced them “a married couple.” The group went off to a reception at the Garden City Hotel.
Dr. Carole Adleman and Barbara Scarcella also arrived with beaming relatives and the excitement was evident in their faces. After 36 years together Dr. Adleman said “God bless Governor Cuomo. We are proud to be residents of this state and proud to be Americans on this day.”
The Marriage Equality Act signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 24 had a 30-day waiting period before the law took effect. Councilman Fred Pollack said that he believed the Town of North Hempstead was the only place in Nassau County available on Sunday to obtain a license and wed. “It has always been the objective of the town to be all-inclusive. It seemed natural to me to make ourselves available on this important day,” said Town Clerk Gross whose office is responsible for issuing marriage certificates.
Twenty couples had made arrangements to receive their certificates and 11 couples had appointments to be married. Normally there is a 24-hour waiting period between the issuance of the marriage license and the marriage ceremony. Judge Winslow was on hand to interview the couples seeking a waiver of the 24-hour waiting time. Couples did not have to be town residents and came from all over Nassau County.