Joy, excitement and wedding plans

Local couples plan to tie knot after state adopts marriage equality law

HUDSON — Marriage equality became the law of New York State on June 24 after the state Senate passed the measure 33-29 and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it.

The law will take effect 30 days later, but on June 25 Dini Lamot and Windle Davis, partners for almost 40 years, were married on the stage at Club Helsinki in Hudson. On June 27 Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce, partners for 35 years, announced their upcoming wedding in their e-flier for Time and Space Ltd.

Around the city and county, other reaction was as heartfelt if less public.

In Ghent Phillip Schwartz, 47, an artist, and Dale Schafer, 51, a landscape architect, have been together for 11 years and were waiting for marriage equality in New York. “We could have gone to Massachusetts to be married,” said Mr. Schultz, “but as a political statement we felt it was better to marry in our home state. It’s a very important civil right,” he concluded, “and I think it’s great!”

Massachusetts was one of the five states — with Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia — that already sanctioned same-sex marriages. Canada also has marriage equality.

In Hudson Jamison Teale, 56, and James Gottlieb, 51, owners of Gottlieb Gallery, also nixed a Massachusetts marriage. “It didn’t afford us the legal rights we’re looking for in New York State,” said Mr. Teale. “We’ve talked about it, and being married will not change the way we feel about each other,” after almost 20 years of life partnership. “What we want is the legal tie, for medical and legal decisions.”

Holly Northrop, 47, a photographer and graphic artist, and Martha Harvey, 47, who works in marketing for Sharpe Electronics, did get married in Massachusetts in October 2009, after the New York State legislature failed that year to pass a marriage equality bill. The couple, who live in Hudson, had been together for 18 years, and “we were tired of waiting for New York to get its act together,” said Ms. Northrop.

New York will recognize the couple’s Massachusetts marriage, she said, but they will still consult a lawyer about legal details. “Martha’s talking about a recommitment ceremony. Or should we get divorced in Massachusetts and remarry in New York? Civil rights should be a federal, not a state, statute,” she said.

“I’m not personally interested in institution of marriage, but it’s a legal contract that gives contract members thousands of rights,” said Victor Mendolia, 50, of Hudson, a computer consultant and chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee. “I lived through the worst of the AIDS crisis, I saw couples who had been committed to each other for years, who were then unable to make medical decisions, and after death the family swooped in, took everything and kicked the partner to the curb.

“Today most people know someone who is gay and it’s different from what it was 20 or even 10 years ago. It’s a moment in time that took time get here, but it finally arrived,” he said.

Realizing that the decision was at hand last Friday, Mr. Mendolia rushed to Albany. He was surprised to find that demonstrators had been let inside the Capitol, up to the third floor. “The whole building was rocking,” he said, “vibrating from the chanting. The energy was unbelievable.”

Manda Weintraub, a contemporary art consultant who worked on the local marriage equality campaign, called it “the civil rights issue of our time.” Ms. Weintraub, 59, said that “Hudson and Columbia County are small enough so that a few people can make a difference.” At Fairview Plaza she had asked passers-by to sign a postcard supporting marriage equality that would be sent to state Senator Stephen Saland (R-41st), whose district includes the county. On Friday, he cast one of the deciding votes in favor of the measure.

“It was a real learning experience,” she says. “The will of people in New York State was for equal rights. I was surprised sometimes, when people whose clothes or tattoos suggested they wouldn’t be the least bit interested — and they were. They signed the card, they made the call, they understood the issue.

“The only people who said no were in a terrible rush, or some older couples. People would say, ‘I bet I’m the only conservative Republican to sign this,’ and I’d say, ‘No, you’re the fifth.’”

Among many local straight supporters of Marriage Equality are members of the clergy, although acting on that support may be difficult.

“As a matter of my own personal opinion, I am deeply pleased and gratified that all of God’s children, of any sexual orientation, who wish to commit themselves to a lasting, loving relationship with another person, can now legally do so,” said the Reverend John Perry, rector of Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson. “This is a matter of basic human rights, and for me it honors our need to express our human natures in relationships that are marked by respect, by giving, by mutuality and by equality.

But he acknowledged that “faithful Christians do disagree about this issue.”

Among those who believe that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, the Right Reverend William H. Love. He has previously directed that there will be no blessing of same-sex unions in the diocese. “As a priest in his diocese, I am bound by my ordination vows to obey him, and I shall,” said Father Perry. “I am left with a deep sense of personal sadness that I cannot officiate at such a marriage, but this is minor compared to my joy that all persons may now enter into committed loving relationships that have legal status and protection.” 

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