Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We are building a better New York; Thank you for making it happen.

It’s an amazing and joyous time for New Yorkers! For the first time ever, all loving committed couples are able to get married here in the Empire State. A wedding is about two people making a lifelong commitment to love and care for each other. But this summer of weddings is also a celebration for our community. For the first time in history, our families have access to the same protections and responsibilities that New York gives to all married couples, and that is momentous.

In recognition of the first day that same-sex couples could legally wed in New York State we were on the ground Sunday in Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Queens, Long Island, Manhattan, Rochester and Syracuse. Our staff was distributing “Just Married” sashes at City Clerks’ offices to couples receiving their marriage licenses and getting married. Designed to fulfill the adage “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” the blue sashes are keepsakes for couples from this historic day.

Lead Organizer Kate McDonough shared this story from the Manhattan Clerk’s office:

“On Sunday morning I boarded the J train with a box filled with hundreds of ‘Just Married’ sashes. People quietly peeked at my box and some let out a small smile. The scene at the clerk’s office was electric. Outside was like a never-ending wedding march as couples lined up to finally exchange vows. Some couples went as far as to have entire wedding parties, with bridesmaids in matching dresses and small children carrying flowers. It was wonderful to be a part of the day by handing out sashes. Couples snatched them as volunteers ran up and down the line or handed them off to newlyweds exiting the clerk’s office. As I gave sashes to one couple, the man grabbing the sash looked me in the eye and said, ‘16 years together and now we can be “just married;” It’s a great day.’”

Our Transgender Rights Organizer Christopher Argyros reported from Albany:

“Then, finally, the judge came out at midnight into the middle of the room with the first couple to be married. The room hushed while photographers scurried to get the best shots of this historic moment. The vows were fairly standard, but when the judge said those words which we had all heard at weddings past and taken for granted, ‘By the power vested in me by the laws of the State of New York…’ that right then was The Moment –a collective chill ran through the room. I think all of our eyes got a little teary. For me, that was when I fully realized the reality of what had happened: a momentous change in the law and in the progress of our society towards equality, and a historic moment for civil rights.”

Development Director Johanna Osburn congratulated the happy newlyweds in Queens:

“I had the honor of being part of this historic day, greeting and congratulating couples at Queens Borough Hall on Sunday morning as the first couples were married there. The looks on their faces as they walked out of the building, holding a certificate which took thousands of people and so many years to become real, were breathtaking – it was a combination of joy and awe and love, the likes of which I’ve never seen. And the families and friends there to support them may have been even more nervous and excited than the couples, as they recognized just what this day meant. Even a few couples who forgot something to receive their licenses were still smiling as they raced back home to get an ID or paperwork!”

We are now celebrating the result of decades of hard work by the Empire State Pride Agenda and others to open hearts and minds. Thank you for all that you’ve done to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and justice here in New York State. Marriage is a landmark victory, but there is still work that needs to be done:

  • We need to further transgender civil rights and pass a statewide transgender non-discrimination law to prevent people from being fired from their jobs or denied housing just because of how they express their gender.

  • Our government needs to do its part to address the health and human
    service needs of the LGBT community and protect the most vulnerable members of our community, like LGBT seniors and homeless youth.

  • We have to ensure that the Dignity for all Students Act is implemented effectively and fulfills its promise of making all youth safe from bullying and discrimination within their schools.

  • And we need to defend our marriage victory by standing up for those elected officials who stood by us when they are all up for election in November of 2012. We also need to help maximize the ripple effect of this marriage victory nationwide.

We are building a better New York. Once again, I know I can count on you to help us make it happen.

In solidarity,

Ross D. Levi

Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

PS - If you got married or are getting married, consider registering your wedding with the Pride Agenda. With our Wedding Registry, your guests can give a donation to help defend marriage in New York State, and you can receive your own "Just Married" sash!

Photos (in order) by Anahi DeCanio, Andrea Morales of The New York Times, and Eric Krupke.

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