Same-Sex Marriage, Bronx-Style


There were 42 marriage licenses given out Sunday in the Bronx, but wandering in and around the massive building, much of the courthouse crew seemed as indifferent to the historic day as the Yankee crowd had been on the train ride up.

As much as I’d enjoyed the fanfare in Brooklyn and Manhattan earlier Sunday, the passivity didn’t chafe — after all, there will be more same-sex marriages today, and tomorrow, and each tomorrow after that one. Sunday was different because the days that follow won’t be.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was nowhere to be seen when I arrived, perhaps understandable give the anti-same-sex marriage rally his father, the reverend and state senator, was headlining that evening. The setting felt as sterile as any court, the stiff benches indifferent to the gender combinations of the couples waiting eagerly, if uncomfortably. Watching the courthouse regulars, it felt like business as usual. Only the mayor’s press people and reporters circling around distinguished this day from any other. That, and the couples.

But, of course, it wasn’t business as usual. Judge Jerry Klein, who’d married one couple by noon and seemed awfully glad to be working on what he called “a historic” Sunday, said: “It’s always nice to see everyone in your courtroom happy.”

My very unscientific survey found about two lesbian couples in the Bronx for every gay or straight one. (In Manhattan and Brooklyn, I saw about equal numbers of gay and lesbian couples and very few straight ones). In every borough, the couples I saw tended to be older — from their mid-30s through their 70s — and many of those I spoke with had been together for years if not decades, without being able to marry until now.

Here are glimpses of four of the couples who were married or got their license in the Bronx on Sunday:

Gwendolyn Williams, 49 & Karen Cofield, 48:

The couple, who met in a crack-cocaine rehab center six years ago, has been together since. Gwendolyn has been off the drug for five years, Karen for four.

“She’s been planning for a long time,” said Karen, who wore a black shirt and two chains, one with a globe that was a gift from Gwendolyn and one with a pair of praying hands.

“We prayed for a miracle. This is a miracle.”

They’d arrived the Bronx Court House at 9, and were still waiting when I met them at 1. “Any minute now,” said a beaming Gwendolyn.

Yashica Martinez, 36 & Kathy Almodover, 36:

The couple, who have been together for 10 years, was joined by son Yianni Martinez. They had a big party with “tuxedos and everything” after their civil union in New Jersey, said Yashica, so this time, they were planning a small party “for family.”

“We entered the lottery and we won,” said Kathy, who wore a white, sleeveless dress, of their decision to get married on the first day it was legal in New York for same sex couples. “It’s the only lottery I think I’ll ever win.”

Nicole Cranker, 29 & Michelle Embroz-Suarez, 22:

The couple has been together for two years but, they say, they had it mind to get together before then. Trading off lines, they said that “we crossed paths but never actually met, but we were into each other.” Eventually Michelle saw on Facebook that Nicole was a friend of an old schoolmate of hers, and the two connected online.

A first plan to meet in person when Michelle had a play fell apart when Nicole contracted swine flu, but eventually the two managed to meet, and connect.

“I planned on proposing whether New York did it not,” Nicole said. (In the photo, it’s Michelle getting picked up, and Nicole who’s doing the lifting.)

But once New York legalized same sex marriage, “it kind of just felt right to be a part of this thing” on day one, Michelle said, since the couple had long been active in marriage equality issues.

In place of rings, the couple (both of them already sport Tim Burton pieces) intend to get matching wedding-finger ink.

Joan Spanier & Ann Barbera (ages unknown):

The couple has been together for 16 years. They met as Guidance Counselors at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School.

“We were very excited, the fact that it was historical, and we wanted to be a part of it,” Joan said of their decision to be married on Day One.

And then they were called in to the court room, so we left it there.