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In Park Slope, 'Pride' Prevails

After the passage of the state’s same-sex marriage bill, the mood was jovial.

In October, Johanna Weller-Fahy, 32, and Andrea Dionne Warmack, 31, tied the knot at a wedding ceremony in Brooklyn, but they refused to take care of the legal formalities of becoming wife and wife until they could do so on their home turf.

“It seemed like cheating to go somewhere else like Connecticut to get married,” said Warmack. “This is my home, I should be able to get married where I live."

Friday night, after the state’s landmark passage of the Marriage Equality Act extending marriage rights to LGBT couples, Weller-Fahy and Weller-Fahy stood in front of an exceptionally rowdy on Fifth Avenue, making plans to officially get hitched.

“I’m going to have a second wedding!” said Weller-Fahy. “This is bananas.”

“I think we’ll get married Wednesday,” she added, popping into the landmark LGBT bar, where she was greeted with screams and high-fives (as was pretty much anyone who walked through the door).

New York has now joined the ranks of five other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing same-sex unions. It is the largest state to do so, and the first Republican-controlled legislature to pass a vote extending marriage rights to LGBT couples.

But Slopers, for one, saw this as a long time coming.

“It’s about time,” said Gemma Dello, a Slope resident. “Now I’m going to meet someone tonight, and get married!”

Park Slope has long been a gay-friendly community, a neighborhood not only tolerant but welcoming to the LGBT crowd long before most of the borough.

The neighborhood is home to not only a handful of great LGBT bars and Brooklyn’s own, but churches and businesses that have long rallied for LGBT marriage equality. Not to mention the world's largest collection of “materials by and about lesbians and their communities” at the Lesbian Herstory Archives on 14th Street.

In the weeks after Park Slope’s famous gay pride parade earlier this month, many local businesses kept their rainbow flags flying—a show of support for the neighborhood LGBT community and marriage equality.

And on Friday, it was clear that for many the state’s passage of the same-sex marriage bill was a long-awaited step forward for LGBT equality in Brooklyn and greater New York. At Ginger’s, as the bill passed, the usually raucous bar turned down the jams and instead grew quiet, glued to a television channel broadcasting the senate proceedings. When the bill passed, the bar erupted.

Across the street at Excelsior, the mood was equally jubilant, if not a little more reserved in expressing it.

“Normalcy has prevailed!” said Edward Azrant, 37, a Brooklyn Heights resident.

“I’m so psyched,” added a friend, Jonathan Patrick.

Borough President Marty Markowitz said the vote was a historic occasion for Brooklynites, and applauded the work of local politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn in helping to make the bill happen.

“It is impossible to overstate the momentous history we witnessed in Albany tonight with legislative approval of marriage equality for all New Yorkers,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz in a statement. “Let’s hope that the remaining 44 states and President Obama ‘evolve’ as I have, and support equal marriage rights for all Americans, so that they can pursue life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness—and, yes, love.”

The mayor of New Paltz, Jason West, was the first New York public official to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. However, subsequent challenges by gay marriage opponents resulted in the courts striking down those unions as unconstitutional in 2006.

Shortly after, the State Legislature went to work.

A bill legalizing same-sex unions was first introduced in the Assembly in 2007 and later passed the Democratic-controlled chamber multiple times since.

However, the politics of gay marriage has been a much more complex affair in the state Senate—one that often transcended party lines.

Eight senate Democrats joined Republicans to vote down the measure in 2009. Of those Dems, six hailed from the five boroughs, led by state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., D-Bronx, a Pentecostal minister who opposes same-sex unions on religious grounds.

In the last days before the bill’s passage, it was concerns raised by religious leaders like Diaz Sr. that dominated negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and wavering Senate Republicans.

Now that the bill has passed, locals and marriage equality activists hope that it will have a positive influence on other states.

“History was made today in New York. This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.

“I’m single, but if I do find that person that I want to start a life with, I know that I can plan a wedding,” said Marisela G., 37, a life-long Sloper, outside Ginger’s. “Not only that, but we can share insurance, I can leave them my pension. I have rights.”

“It’s a great day to be gay,” said Gemma Dello. “It’s a very gay day.”

Paul Leonard contributed to this report.

Neil Zwillinger June 25, 2011 at 03:25 PM
its a great morning to be a new yorker, to realize that equality isn't just for some people, it exists for everyone...the air is clearer, less polluted with hatred and bigotry....kudos to the republican legislators, especially the ones who voted their conscience and not the narrow beliefs of some of their constituency.....

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