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First gay couple to wed in Queens

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For Astoria couple Greg Levine, 32, and Shane Serkiz, 33, Sunday morning at 9:06 a.m. was the moment that they said had been in the works for 4,223 days.

Appearing before several of Levine’s family members and even more members of the media in the clerk's office at Queens Borough Hall, the men were officially recognized as the first married homosexual couple.

The men, the first pair of more than 90 couples who came to the building to get married on the first official day homosexuals could get legally married in the state, said they did not intend to make history in the borough — but since they had been together for 12 years, they wanted to exchange their vows as soon as possible.

“In my genes, its, ‘Get there early,’ and I wanted to avoid the long line,” said Levine, a math teacher at Long Island City High School.

Serkiz, also a teacher, remarked that his union would send a positive message to couples across the country.

“I hope it makes it easier for gays and lesbians out there to understand who they are,” he said.

The pair met while studying at SUNY Binghamton and after three months of dating, Levine said he knew that his partner was the person who he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. On New Year’s Eve, he proposed to Serkiz, and when Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalized gay marriage last month, they immediately began the paperwork to make their dream a reality.

Although the number of couples at Queens Borough Hall was not as grand as those at City Hall, several members from the mayor’s and borough president’s offices were on hand to guide Levine and Serkiz and the other applicants through the process.

Rob Zukowski, of the nonprofit advocacy group, Marriage Equality New York was also on hand with other advocates and said he was pleased with how everything was going well.

“Everyone has been great and the process is very simple,” he said.

A group of nine state judges were on hand to officiate the marriages with a statement of “I now pronounce you married.”

Queens Civil Court Judge Sidney Strauss could not contain his excitement before he married Levine and Serkiz.

“I volunteered, first of all ... it’s part of history and it’s one of the best parts of the job,” said Strauss, 72, who used to handle divorces at Queens Family Court before becoming a Civil Court judge.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who is openly gay, joined Levine’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew and other relatives in witnessing the judge sign off on their union.

“To see these gay and lesbian couples celebrate love and to see the state recognize their union is a powerful and welcoming thing,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 11:59 am, October 12, 2011
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