When gay marriage became legal Sunday morning, dozens of couples in Queens celebrated by saying their “I do’s” as soon as they could at the borough’s clerk office where more pairs arrived as the week wore on.
“It’s like the Berlin Wall falling down,” said Lou Rispoli, 61, of Sunnyside, who got married to his partner of 31 years, Danyal Lawson at Queens Borough Hall. “You didn’t think it would happen, but one day you look at the TV and there it was.”
Gay rights advocates and elected officials embraced the new era as more and more borough homosexuals proudly made their unions official.
Nearly 90 couples proudly walked through Borough Hall to get their marriage licenses Sunday. Many of the gay and lesbian pairs had waited years for this moment, including Greg Levine, 32, and Shane Serkiz, 33, of Astoria.
The men had been engaged for 12 years and were anxiously waiting for Queens Supreme Court Justice Sidney Strauss to pronounce them married at 9:06 a.m., making them the first homosexual couple to be officially married in the borough.
“It feels validating,” Levine, a math teacher at Long Island City High School, said following the ceremony, where he was flanked by his family and reporters.
His feeling was shared by the other couples who lined up outside the clerk’s office at the crack of dawn for their licenses. T-shirts and shorts replaced tuxedoes and wedding dresses for the most of the pairs, but that did not stop them from being stylish.
Alessandra De Lima and Kristy De Lima came decked out in matching Madonna T-shirts.
“We both met because we liked Madonna so it was appropriate,” Kristy De Lima said as she walked out with her wife and their daughter in tow.
Gay rights groups were on hand to help couples with their applications and handed them a special blue sash that proudly proclaimed “Just Married.”
Rob Zukowski, of the nonprofit Marriage Equality New York, said he was impressed with how efficient the process was going since nine judges were on duty to handle the 89 applications.
“I think it’s gone smoothly. They’ve been great so far,” Zukowski said as the first group of couples began entering the clerk’s office.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), the first openly gay speaker, visited Borough Hall later in the afternoon to congratulate the couples on their big day.
“It was an overwhelming experience to see the outpouring of love and community on New York City’s first day of marriage equality,” she said in a statement.
Due to an excess of early applications, Queens was designated as a second location for several couples who applied for their licenses in Manhattan. Denise Maynard, 50, and her wife S.J. Langer, 37, the first lesbian couple to tie the knot in Queens, said they did not care where they got married because they had been waiting for years to get it done in New York state.
“We’ve been together for 19 years and this has been so wonderful,” said Maynard, who lives on Long Island.
A conservative group contends the marriage is anything but wonderful in a lawsuit that it filed against the state Senate and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms maintains the gay marriage law violated several state laws, including the New York State Open Meetings Law.
Schneiderman scoffed the group’s claims and said the state will continue to recognize same-sex marriages.
“My office will fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.
The lawsuit did not seem to deter gay couples as a large number still have been applying for their licences since Sunday, according to the Queens clerk’s office.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who is openly gay, said Sunday was the first big step in equality. The councilman joined his partner Dan Hendrick and more than 100 gay couples at the Claret Wine Bar on Skillman Avenue to celebrate the day and urge the community to keep fighting for better rights.
Because of New York state’s influence, Van Bramer said it is a matter of time before the rest of the country follows suit and officially approves of homosexual unions.
“It certainly has the potential to be the big domino that knocks down the other ones,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2011 Community News Group
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