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Inside the First Gay Weddings in New Jersey

Monday, October 21, 2013

WNYC
The wedding cake shared by nine gay and straight couples married just after 12:01am Monday. (Sarah Gonzalez/WNYC)

New Jersey's first same-sex couples were married in various cities across the state just after the stroke of midnight Monday.  

Joseph Panessidi, a retired advertising executive, and Orville Bell, an LGBTQ youth educator, were the first gay couple married in Newark by Mayor Cory Booker.

The now Senator-elect has denied requests to officiate marriages for seven years.  

“I wasn’t going to marry anybody until I could marry everybody,” Booker said. 

During the ceremony at City Hall, Booker was legally required to ask if anyone objected to the marriage.

One anti-gay-marriage heckler protested, yelling, “This is unlawful in the sight of God.”

Booker asked the man to be escorted out by police.

"And not hearing any substantive, worthy, objections I now will proceed," Booker said. "I now by the power vested in me, thank God, by the state of New Jersey, it’s about time, I declare Joseph and Orville to be lawful spouses in New Jersey.”

Panessidi said the couple has seen a lot of history in their years and that the protester did not bother them.

“We grew up in the 50s, where just to be gay was illegal," he said. "And now today, we’re married.”

His now husband, Bell, was among the original teachers to open Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan.

"On the day that we opened that high school there was a tremendous amount of agitators and we walked in most proudly,” Bell said. “So this was nothing."

The city provided a three-tiered wedding cake, sparking cider and music after the ceremonies. The song "At Last" by Etta James played in the background as each couple cut a slice off the cake, feeding each other and occasionally smearing a little frosting in their spouse’s faces.

Janelle and Lydia Torres were the first female same-sex couple married by Booker.

Janelle was wearing a gold, glittery dress she got the night before after getting a call from the Mayor's office notifying her she would be among the first to gay couples to marry in the state.

She says she shared her wedding night with couples she had never met before that she now considers family.

“We share the date and an event and a part of history and we will always be connected after today.”

This morning, Gov. Chris Christie dropped his state Supreme Court appeal of same-sex marriage in New Jersey. 

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