During an exuberant shopping expedition three years ago, Peg Oliveira made a spontaneous proposal in an aisle of Ikea, blurting, “Marry me!” to her partner, Jennifer Vickery.
Last fall, long before the Connecticut Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the couple became formally engaged, with Ms. Oliveira explaining that she “wanted there to be a moment when we each consciously chose to be together for the rest of our lives.”
On Wednesday morning, with their 3-month-old daughter, Willow, in tow, Ms. Oliveira and Ms. Vickery became one of Connecticut’s first same-sex couples to wed, in a chilly breeze outside City Hall here. Surrounded by journalists and a few friends, they exchanged rings and shared the Ikea story during their vows, along with a slow, tender kiss.
The state’s highest court ruled on Oct. 10 that excluding same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional, and a week ago the court announced that gay marriages could officially be performed starting on Wednesday.
Many same-sex couples said they would wait to apply for their licenses, which expire after 65 days, to have time to prepare for wedding celebrations in the spring and summer. Indeed, advocates for same-sex marriage predicted that there would not be the same rush for licenses on Wednesday that there was in 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriages, or in June, when California began performing them. They cited both the short notice and the fact that Connecticut has, since 2005, offered civil unions, which offer similar rights and benefits, for gay couples.
Still, lawyers and supporters of gay marriage called the day momentous, especially as a counterpoint to the passage last week of a ballot measure in California that invalidated a court decision legalizing gay marriage. Connecticut voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal, backed by opponents of same-sex marriage, for a constitutional convention that would allow for such direct voter initiatives on the ballot.
“Today Connecticut sends a message of hope and promise to lesbian and gay people throughout the country who want to be treated as equal citizens by their government,” said Ben Klein, a senior lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Boston-based group that litigated the Connecticut case. “It’s living proof that marriage equality is moving forward in this country.”
City Hall here was adorned with bunches of white balloons and giant sprays of long-stemmed red roses as Robin and Barbara Levine-Ritterman, who were among the eight named plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state, obtained a marriage license, although they did not plan to marry immediately. “We’re thinking about doing it in May,” said Robin Levine-Ritterman, 49, a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist. “But we really wanted to be part of this historic first.”
But Ms. Oliveira, 36, a yoga teacher and early childhood education consultant, and Ms. Vickery, 44, a lawyer, did not wait. Officiating at the simple ceremony, just before 11 a.m., was their friend, Judge F. Herbert Gruendel of the State Appellate Court, who recalled Ms. Oliveira’s saying five years ago on his porch that she would like to be married. “Today I can say to you that you are,” he said.
Before the ceremony, Ms. Oliveira explained why the couple, who have been together for four years, had not entered into a civil union. “We decided that we wanted to hold out for the real thing,” she said. “Parties are fun, but it’s not about the celebrating piece of this. It’s about honoring the magnitude of the rights that we will be granted, and we wanted to jump in and take advantage of that right away.”
Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only states allowing same-sex marriage. New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire have civil unions, and California has domestic partnerships, which are similar.
Read the full story from the New York TImes.