Reflections on the first day of marriages in New York

Sunday was a historical day for New Yorkers.  Exactly one month after the historical victory for marriage in New York, loving couples began marrying at the City Clerk’s office on July 24th.  As Freedom to Marry’s New Media Intern, I ventured to lower Manhattan with the Freedom to Marry staff to interview couples and generally revel in the afterglow of the hard-won victory.  I certainly expected it to be an emotional day, but the positive energy that radiated was truly inspirational. 

Couples and their children, relatives, dogs, and wedding parties lined up along Centre Street three barricades deep, but no one seemed bothered by the wait, despite the nearly 100?F heat.  The mood was joyous, with couples managing to celebrate both their love and commitment to each other and the end of marriage discrimination in New York.  The attitude that “we’re all in this together” abounded on Sunday.  One couple brought their seeing-eye dog as part of their wedding party and an altruistic couple towards the front of the line allowed them to go in front so that their dog would not be in the heat for as long.  Another gentleman in line was 97 years old and he and his partner had been waiting nearly 50 years to be married in their home state.  After checking him in, an official for the mayor’s office escorted him and his husband-to-be to the front of the line exclaiming, “Let’s get this man to the alter! He’s been waiting so long!”
My fellow intern, Katie Garcia, and I had the immense pleasure of photographing and interviewing couples as they stood in line.  Many couples were eager to share stories of why marriage matters to them.  One couple, Barry and Kevin, put it especially eloquently.  When we asked them why marriage matters, Kevin responded, “Why does anyone want to get married? For recognition of their love, commitment, and family.”  When we asked why getting married in New York on that day mattered to them, most couples underscored that New York was their home state, or where they had fallen in love and it was important that the state that meant so much in their lives recognized their relationship.  However, couples had also travelled from as far as Georgia and Miami to get married in New York.  
The couples we interviewed had a range of post-nuptial plans from bar hopping and barbequing in flip-flops to honeymooning in Barcelona.  Many told us that they were going to have receptions or parties later because the swift pace of the bill’s passage hadn’t allowed them time to make official plans.  Corinne and Michelle told us that their plans were just to start their life together.  They have been together for a year and were going to celebrate their marriage by moving in together.  Michelle is starting a new job this week and she expressed to us that with all of the new beginnings they were excited just to live life as a married couple.
One particularly emotional moment for me occurred as I stood by the barricade watching an adorable couple having their picture taken by their wedding photographer.  As they starred into each other’s eyes, it seemed like for them no one else existed.  The sincerity of that moment was truly beautiful.  After a few pictures, they breathed a sigh of relief that finally their love and commitment could be celebrated equally.  
All pictures were taken by intern Katie Garcia.