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Hundreds Of Same-Sex Couples Exchange Vows In NY

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Same-sex marriage is now legal in the Empire State.

Gay couples cheered by supporters tied the knot Sunday in New York City on the landmark day that New York became the sixth and largest state to recognize same-sex weddings.

Officials expected to host hundreds of same-sex weddings, and they did not disappoint. About 100 couples waited in line outside the city clerk's office Sunday morning for the chance to exchange their vows.

The first to be married at the city clerk's office was 75-year-old Phyllis Siegel, a retired bookkeeper, and 85-year-old Connie Kopelov, a retired labor educator.

Gay Marriage
Phyllis Siegel, 76, left, and Connie Kopelov, 84, both of New York, embrace after becoming the first same-sex couple to get married at the Manhattan City Clerk's office, Sunday, July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The two have been together for 23 years and Sunday morning, they finally exchanged vows.

"Today, Phyllis and Connie come together to pledge to live the rest of their lives as one,'' said  City Clerk Michael McSweeney who presided over the wedding. "These are two independent people who are joining together because they can see and they feel how much better their lives will be. They wish to establish a union which is greater than the sums of its parts.''

A cheer erupted in the room when McSweeney pronounced them officially married. "I am breathless,'' Siegel said afterward. "I almost couldn't breathe. I am happy.''

1010 WINS' Steve Sandberg reports: A Long Wait For Siegel And Kopelov


Many couples waiting outside the city clerk's office held bouquets and wore tuxedos or wedding dresses before being ushered in for a license and a ceremony in one of the building's simple chapels.

Gay Marriage
Couples wait outside of the city clerk's office in New York City, June 24, 2011 (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

But some of the first ceremonies were held early Sunday morning just after midnight around the state.

Among the first gay couples to marry in New York were Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd of Buffalo. They celebrated their now legal nuptials at Niagara Falls.

Closer to home in North Hempstead, Long Island was the wedding of Patrick Simeone and Francisco Fuertes. They finally exchanged vows after being together for 23 years.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Terry Sheridan reports


"To me, it was 'About time,''' said Fuertes, a 55-year-old operations director for a retail company.

Simeone, a stylist on Long Island's north shore, said he's only sorry it took New York so long to recognize same-sex marriage. "It's such a leader in many different ways,'' he said.

Same-sex marriage legal in NY
Francisco Fuertes and Patrick Simeone were married in North Hempstead, NY (credit: CBS 2)

After the ceremony, Simeone said that despite being together 23 years, he felt different. "We're happily married,'' he said shortly after 1 a.m. "I feel more loving. Kinder, more tender, more loved.'

New York is now the largest state in the nation to officially recognize same-sex marriage. It was one month ago that lawmakers in Albany approved the legislation.

Four members of the Republican majority and all but one Democrat in the Senate voted in favor after years of intense and emotional campaigning and protests.

Gay marriage opponents still staunchly against the new law. Even a town clerk upstate chose to resign rather than officiate a gay wedding.

"This is a law I could not uphold and so I felt it was time I should step aside," said the former town clerk Ruth Sheldon.

The National Organization for Marriage held rallies Sunday afternoon in New York City, Albany, Rochester and Buffalo, saying Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers redefined marriage without giving voters a chance to weigh-in, as they have in other states.

Protesters chanted "Let the People Vote!" at rallies across the state.

Still, there's no stopping the law and the love. Francisco and Patrick were practically speechless over their vows.

Judges were being posted in New York City clerks' offices on Sunday to officiate and to consider waiver requests to the state's mandatory 24-hour wait between issuing a license and a having ceremony.

Couples without waivers can't wed until Monday or Tuesday, depending on whether their local clerks issue licenses Sunday.

What do you think? Sound off below in our comments section...

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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