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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gay Bronx Couples Waste No Time in Making History

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the latest Norwood News, on the streets and online now.

Karen Cofield and Gwendolyn Williams, who met 5 years ago, were married at the
Bronx County Courthouse on Sunday. (Photo by Jordan Moss)
By Jordan Moss

The signs of a highly unusual Sunday at the Bronx County Courthouse, where profound new rights were being conferred on a large group of New Yorkers, were hard to miss.

Staff of the mayor’s office, sporting orange baseball caps, warmly greeted anyone who came within 50 yards of the courthouse’s Concourse entrance. There was no crammed line-up leading to the metal detectors. Cameras, forbidden from courtrooms and confiscated for the duration of one’s visit if found, were waved on through.

History, after all, was waiting for its close-up.

 Another gantlet of helpers led people to the correct elevator to head down to the marriage bureau in the basement. About a couple of dozen gay couples calmly waited in a courtroom on the ground floor on the west side of the courthouse to be married on the first day it was possible, as allowed by a law passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo a month ago. Many were with family and friends, and some were just happy to be with each other on a day no one in the room would likely ever forget. There were delays in getting couples to the “altar” (a small office near the courtroom) but impatience was scarce.

Rhea Greenberg, a disability analyst for the state, and Janice Glock, a retired postal worker, met on a blind date and have been together for almost 12 years, living in Spuyten Duyvil. The couple, who jokingly referred to each other as “Spouse A” and “Spouse B,” which is how they had to classify themselves on the marriage license forms, chose not to get married in nearby states like Connecticut or Massachusetts which preceded New York in allowing gay marriage. They held out hope for the Empire State to fall in line.

“This is where we’ve lived our lives,” said Greenberg, who expressed relief that there were no protesters outside the building. “This is where we have roots, family, friends, and this is where we want to get married.”

Though they know they’re going to be together forever, there are practical considerations, Greenberg said. “I want to know if anything happens to me, that she is as protected as possible.”

“We plan to stay together,” Glock said. “We’ve worked out all the kinks. This is one more way of uniting ourselves.”
Rhea Greenberg and Janice Glock, Spuyten Duyvil residents, waited with friends and family for their turn to be married. (Jordan Moss)
On their anniversary on Aug. 12, they will gather with family and friends to celebrate their marriage at Silvio’s, an Italian Restaurant in Yonkers, where they also marked their domestic partnership about 5 years ago.

“Give them a plug,” Greenberg told a reporter regarding Silvio’s. “We told them we’d try to get them gay wedding business!”

A few rows back, Mott Haven residents Karen Cofield and Gwendolyn Williams also waited patiently, willing to endure some bureaucratic delays after five years together.

They met in a rehab center upstate and have been a support to each other ever since. A reporter asked Cofield, a maintenance worker at Memorial Sloane Kettering, what being married meant to her. She hardly skipped a beat.

“Everything,” said Cofield.

She added: “There’s no question in our mind that we’re going to be together. It’s just another level for us.”
Twenty seven couples tied the knot that day in the Bronx, 823 in the city as a whole.

Earlier in the morning, Criminal Court Judge Efrain Alvarado, assisting the other judges in managing a very unusual Sunday of legal proceedings, told the packed courtroom:

"We have a historic day today. Not just because it's the first time in New York State, but because we have come full circle in recognizing the equality and equal justice deserved by all."

David Green contributed to this story.


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