NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--New Yorkers showed up to the City Clerk's Office in Manhattan by the hundreds on July 24, the first day that New York's Marriage Equality Act took effect.
Couples arrived as early as 6:30 a.m. for a spot in a line that wrapped around the building twice. Vendors handed out gifts--"Just married" sashes and lei necklaces--while onlookers watched New York make history on the sweltering summer morning.
New York became the sixth state to legalize single-sex marriage and, due to its large population, has doubled the potential population of same-sex married couples.
Two professional figure skaters, Sarah Zanoli and Marni Halasa, decided to use their talents by dressing up in bright, sparkly leotards and roller skated around the building in support of the LGBT community.
Volunteers handed out sunflowers donated by Hatch Creative Studio, a Manhattan floral shop, with blue ribbons tied to the stems signifying the "something blue" item needed by wedding tradition.
Manhattan Mini Storage distributed coupons for three months of free storage for any newlyweds on that day. "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married," one side of the coupon said.
Among the numerous props and products, the most visible objects were multi-colored umbrellas lining the curb in front of the clerk's office. They added to the festive atmosphere, but their function was not only decorative. It was also defensive.
Marriage Equality New York, a grassroots organization dedicated to this issue, provided hundreds of umbrellas to shield couples from angry protestors.
"We want to protect the newlyweds on their wedding day," said Trucker Darling, who was holding one umbrella. "We're peacefully demonstrating our excitement that this legislation is passed and this basic human right has been granted."
About six protestors created the only hostility. They took up a position on a corner across the street from the city building. They came from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. "Mourn for your sins," one of their placards said. "God mocks America," said another. Others were too crude to quote. They shouted various insults.
The peaceful reinforcement protesters parried and shielded wedding couples by singing "Going to the Chapel." "God hates haters," they chanted, "God loves biological diversity."
Around 9:30 in the morning, the Topeka protesters from across the street packed up and went away.
Mary Walcott and Kim Bertolino were among the hundreds of couples lining up to get married. The longtime Queens residents chose to get married in Manhattan instead of their home borough because of the exciting atmosphere and historical significance.
"We have been part of this push for marriage equality. We marched in Washington because it was important to us," Walcott told Women's eNews on Sunday. "We didn't sleep watching the news leading up to the law passing, and we immediately knew we wanted to come into the city and celebrate this day."
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Krystie Lee Yandoli is a Women's eNews editorial intern.
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