Same-sex marriages around the county
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop among the first to officiate weddings
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Oct 27, 2013 | 4176 views | 0 0 comments | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Newlyweds Ami Levine (left) and wife Nancy Scott celebrate their marriages shortly after the City Hall ceremony ended in Jersey City Monday morning.
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Last week felt like June wedding season in the Garden State as dozens of gay and lesbian couples said their “I do’s” in city halls across New Jersey.

In a rare sight, City Hall in Jersey City was abuzz with activity at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 as wedding cake, ice, and wine were delivered and dressed-up guests descended on 280 Grove St. to see history in the making.

Hundreds had gathered to see Mayor Steven Fulop officiate the marriages of several gay and lesbian couples who could now legally wed in the Garden State thanks to a September court ruling.

“Who’s the official timekeeper?” Fulop asked the crowd that had assembled at City Hall to see history made in Jersey City.

Marriages of same-sex couples in New Jersey could not officially begin until Monday, Oct. 21. In cities throughout New Jersey, marriages of gay and lesbian couples began at 12:01 a.m.

In Jersey City, after several cell phones in the room struck 12:01 a.m., Fulop performed a mass ceremony as family members, friends, members of the community, and the media looked on. Fulop married approximately 16 people – six gay male couples and two lesbian couples – during the ceremony.

Among those who said their vows were David Gibson and Rich Kiamco, who were recently featured in several editions of the Reporter.

“It feels good,” Gibson said after the mass ceremony had ended. “And it feels good to do this among family,” referring to members of the gay community who were also married alongside Gibson and Kiamco.

The two have previously exchanged vows before their friends and families of origin.
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Gov. Christie said last Monday that he will drop all legal appeals to same sex marriages in the Garden State.
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After the ceremony, the couples all congratulated each other and exchanged hugs.

The couples were able to get married Monday after the New Jersey Supreme Court denied a request by Gov. Christopher Christie to delay a ruling by a lower court that same-sex marriages must begin on Oct. 21. Last month, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that marriages of same-sex couples must begin on Oct. 21. Her ruling was the first in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June.

Gov. Christie said last Monday that he will drop all legal appeals to same sex marriages in the Garden State.

Fulop and Jersey City were not alone in entering the history books. Shortly after midnight, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was last week elected to the U.S. Senate, also presided over the marriages of at least 10 couples in the Newark City Hall Rotunda.

Around the county

Later that day, longtime couple and Hobokenites Peter Auperrle and Stewart Fishbein were married in Hoboken City Hall by Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

The couple, who have been together for 20 years, had previously had a civil union ceremony and a legal domestic partnership agreement. Prior to the push for marriage, domestic partnerships and civil unions were the only legal options available to same sex couples who wanted to formalize their relationships. Couples like Auperrle and Fishbein and Gibson and Kiamco have argued that these arrangements fell short of the rights and protections guaranteed to married couples.

Early last week, West New York Mayor Felix Roque said that, to his knowledge, no gay or lesbian coupled have filed for a marriage license in his town. But, he said, he will gladly do the honors if and when the opportunity arrives.

“We’re all the same under the eyes of God. I believe they shouldn’t be treated like second rate citizens,” said Roque, a doctor who specializes in pain management. “The fact that they’ll get more civil rights out of this is good. This makes sense.”

Dennis Forsythe, a patient of Roque’s, added, “There are about 1,400 rights that go along with marriage that gay people have not been permitted to have.”

Forsythe lost his longtime partner in 2007 after he died of a heart attack. But, he said, the two did have a civil union ceremony.

Roque admits that Forsythe, whom he has known for many years, has done much to help educate him about the gay marriage issue.

Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, said, “North Bergen has not had any applications for same sex marriage licenses or ceremonies yet. Mayor Sacco has not made any official statements [on this issue]. But he is eager to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, just as he has performed civil unions in the past. We are ready to go as soon as we receive interest from a couple.”

When it became clear that Judge Jacobson’s decision was not going to be overturned by the New Jersey Supreme Court, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner contacted residents Alan George and Gary Stevens, who have been together for 27 years.

“They were the first civil union ceremony in Weehawken. I did their civil union ceremony in 2007,” said Turner. “We reached out to them and said, ‘Well, since you were the first civil union, would you like to be the first marriage?’”

Turner said the waterfront wedding took place at on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. at Riva Pointe and was attended by about 30 guests, who included the couple’s family, friends, and neighbors. Several town officials were also in attendance.

“It was exciting. Everybody who was there felt is was historic,” Turner added. “And many of the people there felt it was not only historic but long overdue.”

The Weehawken mayor was scheduled to perform three more same-sex weddings before press time on Oct. 25.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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