With an exchange of rings and kisses, 28 couples on Long Island made civil rights history Sunday, becoming among the first same-sex partners to marry in New York.
Around the state, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples exchanged vows or obtained marriage licenses on the first day they could do so under the Marriage Equality Act.
"It's a big honor for us to be able to set the stage," said Francisco Fuertes, who with Patrick Simeone received Nassau County's first same-sex marriage license at the North Hempstead Town Clerk's office shortly after midnight. "I really feel like the eyes of the world are on New York." The Westbury couple have been together for 23 years.
North Hempstead Town Clerk Leslie Gross, who opened her office on a day when it normally would be closed, called the historic day "a wonderful and momentous time, and I'm so glad I could be part of it."
New York is the sixth and most-populous state to allow same-sex marriages.
Cuomo, a Democrat who made passing a same-sex marriage law one of his priorities after being elected last year, hosted a party in Manhattan Sunday to celebrate the law and issued a proclamation commemorating it.
In North Hempstead, 14 couples married Sunday and 27 received licenses for weddings to be held later.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg officiated the wedding of two of his top aides on the lawn of Gracie Mansion last night.
"Today, in the city and in the state, history takes an important step forward by allowing every person to participate," the mayor said at the ceremony of John Feinblatt, 60, his chief policy adviser and criminal justice coordinator, and Jonathan Mintz, 47, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
All town and city clerks on Long Island will be open as usual Monday and begin issuing same-sex licenses.
Some of yesterday's ceremonies were simple and quiet. Others became raucous applause- and cheer-filled affairs. Some couples were surrounded by friends and family; others sought strangers as witnesses. Parents clutched their children's hands, watching them take vows. In other cases, children surrounded parents as they said "I do."
"We waited a long time for this," Beinhauer said, adding that the couple will continue to lobby for recognition on the federal level. "I just wish it could've been when I was 20 years old."
In New York City, celebrations erupted outside the Manhattan marriage bureau. Soon-to-be brides and grooms stood in a long line while supporters handed out sunflowers, set up photo booths, and held rainbow flags and umbrellas.
Outside Cuomo's midtown office, however, hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday afternoon, many chanting, "Let the people vote."
Paula Scott, of Merrick, went to the North Hempstead clerk's office in Manhasset with friends simply to show support. Her 33-year-old son is gay, she said. "We've always embraced him and respected his decisions, but this means that more of the general population will accept and respect him," Scott said.
Tom McDonough, director of emergency management for North Hempstead, was stationed at the clerk's office along with two other public safety officers, although no disputes or protests occurred.
"One of the nicest things I saw last night was a local mother who brought her 10-year-old daughter here to witness history at midnight," McDonough said.