Corey Booker Presides over Same-Sex Marriages in New Jersey

Even as opinions continue to remain divided on the issue of granting legal sanctity to gay marriage, New Jersey became the 14th state in the U.S. to permit such...

Even as opinions continue to remain divided on the issue of granting legal sanctity to gay marriage, New Jersey became the 14th state in the U.S. to permit such weddings, with outgoing Newark Mayor Cory Booker presiding over seven same-sex marriages at Newark City Hall.

First Gay Couple in the State to Wed

On record, Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell became the first gay couple in the state to tie the knot as soon as the clock read 12.01 am on Monday. It was their meeting in a New York bar some 15 years ago that prompted Panessidi and Bell to become legal life partners. “It was a great night,” the couple, both aged 65, recalls their first memorable meeting at the bar.

The nighttime ceremony was arranged in a short time in the wake of the state’s Supreme Court upholding a lower court’s verdict nullifying the state’s ban on same-sex weddings. It was New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie who appealed against the lower court’s order favoring gay marriages in the state. Even as those assembled in the hall cheered the would-be couples, Booker began officiating as many as nine marriages that included two straight couples.

Another gay couple – Alexander Padilla, 37, and Anthony Arenas, 36 – expressed the belief that the event would serve as an eye-opener, and enable gays to enjoy the rights they deserve. “I’m just overwhelmed, it’s a dream come true. Hopefully, this will open their eyes…. and they give us the rights we deserve,” a visibly-moved Padilla said.

Booker Moving to Senate

On performing gay weddings, Booker, who has now been elected to the U.S. Senate, said that he felt delighted to do this, and the decision was made by him in the capacity of a Mayor. “I made a decision as Mayor…. that I would not marry anybody until I could marry everybody. I’m so happy I did this, and I did it in the right way,” he said.

Before making the maiden gay wedding announcement, Booker asked Panessidi and Bell if they were willing to be part of the ceremony. “Do you wish to join in the marriage?”, he asked, even as the couple nodded their heads. Booker brought some humor to the otherwise silent-looking gathering when he remarked: “And I wish to join you….not in the marriage.” That made everyone present on the scene burst into laughter.

Social Status

Gabriela Celeiro, 34, and Liz Salerno, 38, who had a love-at-first-story to narrate, was the fourth couple to enter into wedlock in the presence of Booker. Thanking the Mayor for taking the initiative to organize the event, the couple said the marriage offered a kind of social status to them. “I feel like I’m an actual human being, and I’m respected to the same level as others are…”, Salerno said, adding “…there’s still going to be challenges. Not everyone wants to see us together and let us to be together, but at least when you have the leaders of a state, that trickles down and makes it more acceptable”.

Even as guests enjoyed the occasion drinking champagne and exchanging greetings with the newly-weds, it became clear that New Jersey will stand witness to more such marriages in the days to come, with the state now recognizing same-sex weddings.