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A Wedding Day for the History Books

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Fifteeen years was long enough to wait. So when Greenburgh Town Hall opened Sunday to allow same-sex couples to get married, John Colborn and John Quinn, of Tarrytown, made sure to be there.

A few minutes before noon, Quinn, 40, and his soon-to-be legal husband Colborn, 47, strolled inside the building, both smiling and holding their heads up, as the automatic doors opened before them.

“We feel very excited,” Quinn said. “We feel good now to be seen in the eyes of the law.”

More than a dozen couples got married in Greenburgh Sunday, the first day that same-sex marriage became legal in New York State.

The mood was high in the town hall lobby as early as 11 a.m., with people chatting and taking pictures, and music playing in the background. The town staffers, judges and other volunteers who came to help out with the historic event kept their promise to turn the marriages into a festive occasion. Marriage Equality and LOFT , the two organizations that helped to set up the event, each had a stand. But the most popular corner was the Antun’s of Westchester ’s table, where waiters served free champagne, sandwiches and fruit compotes.

At noon, Town Clerk Judith Beville punctually summoned everybody to the adjacent auditorium. Around 80 people, counting couples, guests, staffers and the press, listened to her and to Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

“We feel that everybody should be treated equally. I hope that one day the federal government will do the same,” Feiner said, sparking cheer and applause.

After each couple filled out an application and the town staff issued them a marriage license, a judge waived  the 24-hour waiting period required by the law. Supreme Court judge Mary Smith, one of the four judges present, said that that the law demanded a “hardship,” such an illness, to justify getting married in the same day.

“But a hardship is something that can be interpreted,” she said. “Many couples have been suffering for not being able to get married.”

Reporters swarmed the auditorium to record what was perhaps the highest moment of the day. At exactly 1 p.m., Paula Sabul, 61, and Joanne Gjelsten, 62, of Chestnut Ridge in Rockland County, became the first same-sex couple ever married in Greenburgh. The couple has been together for 32 years. Both had tears in their eyes as Beville pronounced them spouses, and as they crossed the aisle to greetings and applause, while the pianist played Mendelssohn's Wedding March .

“I am just overwhelmed by everything.” Sabul said. “It’s amazing.”

By about 3 p.m. things were winding down, and after tending to the last couple, Beville said that around 14 marriages had been conducted, with six more licenses issued. The great majority of couples were from Westchester County.

By that time, Quinn and Colborn were already on their way home to Tarrytown where they planned a quiet celebration.

"We are probably going out for dinner," Colborn said.

Their first as a married couple.

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