Hundreds of LGBT New Yorkers in the five boroughs finally tied the knot Sunday, after the state Marriage Equality Act took effect and the City Clerk's offices opened for weekend weddings.
Sealing their wedding vows with a kiss shortly after 9 a.m., Chelsea residents Phyllis Siegal, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84 became the first same-sex couple to be legally married by City Clerk Michael McSweeney in his Lower Manhattan office.
Siegal and Kopelov have been partners for 23 years, but they were honored that New York State could finally recognize their marriage.
"It was just so amazing. It's, it's, it's the only way I can describe it," Siegal said immediately after the ceremony. "I lost my breath and a few tears and it's indescribable."
The Marriage Equality Act was passed narrowly by the State Senate last month and signed immediately by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
All 823 same-sex and opposite-sex couples who entered a city lottery for Sunday wedding appointments got appointments at one of the five borough offices.
By the time the offices closed on Sunday, the city had issued 659 marriage licenses and volunteer judges performed 484 marriages.
Manhattan had the most demand, as that borough's office issued 366 licenses and 293 marriages.
The Brooklyn office followed with 121 licenses and performed 66 marriages, the Bronx office issued 42 licenses and performed 27 marriages, the Queens office issued 89 licenses and performed 66 marriages and the Staten Island office issued 41 licenses and performed 32 marriages
By the entrance to the Manhattan City Clerk's Office on Centre Street, tens of couples waited in line as early as 4:30 a.m.
A few protesters gathered in the park across the street, but supporters of same-sex marriage formed a sort of human shield and cheered the newlyweds as they left the building.
"Love just transcends hate," said newlywed Daniel Hernandez.
Before the Manhattan ceremonies began, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, met with people waiting for their turn.
"They're here in the most amazing of moments, where their hometown and their state are saying that their family matters, that their family is just as good as everybody else's," Quinn told reporters. "And part of the law that in words said they were less than other people, which wasn't true, is now gone."
Many awaiting a turn in the City Clerk's offices said they were glad that gay couples in New York State now have the same legal rights as straight couples.
"To be able to finally say that we're legally wedded rather than 'living in sin' means the world to us," said newlywed Jim Consolantis.
Gabriel Blau and Dylan Stein, who sported hand-drawn boutineers from their three-year-old son, said they had a religious wedding five years before.
"The rabbi that day five years ago said, 'The State of New York was invited and declined the invitation.' And we're really excited that today we get to complete that ceremony," Blau said.
"We're in in the hospital, and when you identify yourself as somebody's 'partner,' it's not always clear. Are you their partner in business? What does that mean? In those times of high stress, you then have to explain who you are," said newlywed Ben Gable. "Now to say, 'Oh, this is my husband,' it's pretty clear who that is."
Governor Andrew Cuomo joined in on the historic celebration of same-sex marriage by throwing a party for supporters in Chelsea.
One month after signing the same-sex marriage law, the governor hosted a reception for hundreds of advocates and lawmakers who were instrumental in helping pass the legislation.
Cuomo said he is pleased and proud to be part of bringing marriage equality to the state.
"Passing this law not only completes a promise we made to the people of the state during the campaign, it's going to make a real difference in people's lives," Cuomo said. "I don't think this is just about gay people who now choose to get married, this is a statement that we should all feel good about."
The governor said he did not personally know any of the couples tying the knot today.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg marked the historic occasion by officiating the marriage between his Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, and advisor John Feinblatt at Gracie Mansion.
The two city officials met 14 years ago and are raising two daughters.
Across the state, same-sex couples wasted no time before saying "I do" once the clock struck 12:01 a.m.
Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd chose Niagara Falls as backdrop for their early morning wedding, and the natural wonder was illuminated in rainbow colors.
The Buffalo residents, who have been together for more than a decade, were wedded by the mayor of Niagara Falls and the ceremony was attended by some state lawmakers who cast their votes in favor of same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage are holding demonstrations on this watershed day.
Members of the National Organization for Marriage were joined by State Senator Ruben Diaz at a rally outside Cuomo's office on Sunday afternoon to ask for gay marriage to be approved by a public vote.
The organization Connecting Rainbows held a counter-protest down the block.
New York is now the largest state to allow gay marriage, but it is also permitted in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.
Supporters of marriage equality said Sunday they are looking to the federal level and calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
NYC's First Same-Sex Marriages
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