On Sunday evening, shortly after the city’s clerks brought the first day of same-sex marriages to a close, Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and his partner Dan Hendrick organized a celebration at the Claret Wine Bar, a block from their home in Sunnyside, Queens.
“I’d like to answer a question that is on the minds of many today, and the answer is no,” said Mr. Hendrick. “Not until I see the ring, and it better be a very big rock.”
“There is a lot of negotiating going on,” said Mr. Van Bramer. The councilman and his partner of 12 years are still working out the details of their own ceremony: location, size, and whether to have the ceremony indoors or outside. The couple is hoping to hash out some of the particulars on a vacation to Puerto Rico next week. “We are really excited to be faced with these questions,” Mr. Van Bramer said.
As one of two openly gay Council members from Queens — Council Speaker Christine Quinn has jokingly called Mr. Van Bramer a “Queen from Queens” — the day had special significance.
“Who ever thought that this day would ever come in our lifetime?” mused Mr. Van Bramer, before introducing two Western Queens couples who had gotten married earlier in the day.
Gregory Levine and Shane Serkiz planned to make history by marrying on the first day that same-sex marriage was legal in New York State, but they didn’t plan on being the first gay couple in Queens to do it. “On the night of the vote, we turned to each other and said, ‘Oh, I guess we are getting married,’” said Mr. Levine. “We thought it would be a really long line…We just happened to be first.”
Autumn and Rose Sol were the first gay or lesbian couple from Sunnyside to get married. Mr. Van Bramer acted as a witness, even though he hadn’t met the couple until today. “It was the smoothest bureaucracy I’ve ever been through,” said Autumn Sol.
Comptroller John Liu, clad in a white Havana shirt, came to Sunnyside to give a toast. The city’s resident accountant couldn’t help but talk about numbers.
“As I have gone around the city today I have met many couples who are demonstrating their love for each other and starting a new life together even though they have been together for 22 years, for 31 years,” said Mr. Liu. “For the record, Jenny
Ginny and I have been together for 16 years. We still have to catch up to some of the incredible couples I have met today.”
Liu said the economic impact of same-sex marriage would be “unequivocally positive.”
“But of course that is far from the reason why we should and do have marriage equality,” he said. “It is basic fairness and equality, but no question the economic impact will be positive.”
Mr. Van Bramer, Mr. Hendrick, Mr. Liu, and the two couples of honor cut a cake that read: Congratulations on Your Wedding. “Let’s raise our glass and toast to love and equality and each other,” said Mr. Van Bramer.
Midway through the toasts, a glass of red wine shattered. Luckily, Mr. Liu’s white shirt was not within range, although it did splash on Barbara Baruch, a former school teacher who works in the Comptroller’s Office. “My ex-husband gets a third of my pension, so I’m not so romantic about marriage,” stage-whispered Ms. Baruch.
Hans Von Ritten, a tour guide who lives in Queens, wore a t-shirt that read: “marriage is so gay.”
“I saw the shirt at Pride and wanted one,” said Mr. Von Ritten.
Danyal Lawson and Lou Rispoli wore t-shirts with an iron-on that said “31 years,” which they had made especially for the occasion. Although the couple went to the Queens courthouse for a wedding license, they are waiting to get married until their anniversary on August 10.
Mr. Lawson, who teaches piano, said that he has invited his students and their parents to his wedding. “Twenty years ago that wouldn’t have been possible,” he said.
“Now the main issue is the IRS,” said Mr. Rispoli, who called for federal recognition as the next step. “I never thought this would happen,” he said. “It seemed more unlikely than the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
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