Tenth anniversary of 2004 same-sex marriage ceremonies in New Paltz celebrates milestones

A special public forum was held on Thursday, Feb. 27 to mark the tenth anniversary of the historic New Paltz same-sex weddings of 2004. The event, held at New Paltz Village Hall featured key players in the marriage equality movement. Pictured left to right are: Cathy Marino Thomas, former National Co-President, Marriage Equality New York; Mariko Hirose, attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union; New Paltz Mayor Jason West; and Jan Whitman, President of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

A special public forum was held on Thursday, Feb. 27 to mark the tenth anniversary of the historic New Paltz same-sex weddings of 2004. The event, held at New Paltz Village Hall featured key players in the marriage equality movement. Pictured left to right are: Cathy Marino Thomas, former National Co-President, Marriage Equality New York; Mariko Hirose, attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union; New Paltz Mayor Jason West; and Jan Whitman, President of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

It’s been over a decade now since New Paltz Mayor Jason West solemnized marriage vows for more than two dozen same-sex couples in the Peace Park on Feb. 27, 2004. And while the state never sanctioned the marriages, many of the participants that day have said that the ceremonies were an important step for civil rights that helped lead the way for New York’s Marriage Equality Act that took effect in July of 2011.

Last week, on the tenth anniversary — to the day — of the 2004 ceremonies, a public forum was held at Village Hall to remember the remarkable chain of events that brought New Paltz into the international spotlight. A packed house, equally divided between men and women, shared their memories of the experience a decade ago. There was celebration of the strides made in marriage equality since then and concern voiced about what the future holds for same-sex couples who want a marriage legal in every state in the country.

Advertisement

The evening opened with welcoming remarks from Jay Blotcher, who exchanged vows with spouse Brook Garrett in the 2004 ceremonies officiated by West. Blotcher, now legally married to Garrett, noted the milestones in marriage equality that have occurred since then. “Ten years ago, same-sex marriage was banned in 49 of 50 states,” he said. “Today, same-sex couples have the right to marry in the District of Columbia and in 17 states.”

A screening of I Now Pronounce You Husband and Husband, a 20-minute documentary about the New Paltz ceremonies, was introduced by its director, former Vassar student Stephanie Donnelly.

Following the film, Mayor West and a panel of experts on the topic of marriage equality fielded questions from an enthusiastic audience. The panel included Jan Whitman, board president of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center; Mariko Hirose, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Cathy Marino-Thomas, former executive director and board president of the New York branch of Marriage Equality USA, of which she is currently a board member.

West appeared visibly moved after viewing the film. He said that despite the ordeal of going through the aftermath of the events — “a very surreal, surreal time,” he noted, which included months of intense attention from press worldwide and regular death threats against him — it was all worth it.

“That was one of the best days of my life,” he said.

There is one comment

  1. david Weiser

    I attended the 10 yr anniversary talk, and friends with Cathy Marino Thomas. The talk was great and so was the film. Me and my Husband Scott was married twice first in New Paltz July 10th, 2004 then again in P-town Mass. on July 10th, 2009 so we have a license excepted in NY state. On July 10th 2014 we had a large wedding anniversary party held at Beck withpointe in New Rochelle. Something we did not do the first time around or second wedding either. we had 95 people there and many of them from the gay rights movement. Including politicians present and former. When we first got married in 2004 in New Paltz we had protesters and I made our photographer go across the street and take a picture of them. I figured someday in the future no one would believe me that would happen at a gay wedding. We had a stretch limousine with a gay pride flag on the trunk. The other 13 couples getting married that day all had the pictures taken with that car. Even my father came to the event. m man who was born in a different time of life. He was from Vienna Austria born 1920. The event and your article has brought back many feelings. thanks.

Post Your Thoughts