PHILADELPHIA — The Memorial Day weekend will get off to a festive start as gays and lesbians begin to marry across Pennsylvania.
The state could see scores of weddings following a federal judge’s decision to throw the state’s 1996 ban on “the ash heap of history.”
Catherine Hennessy and Kristin Keith rushed to get a marriage license in Philadelphia this week, even though they didn’t plan to marry right away.
Those plans have now changed. Thanks to an unexpected offer from City Hall, they have moved up their wedding so they can be married Friday by Mayor Michael Nutter, Hennessy said.
“When the mayor calls you and says he wants to marry you, you don’t say no,” Hennessy said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III sent the state’s same-sex marriage ban to “the ash heap of history” Tuesday, making Pennsylvania the 19th state to legalize gay marriage. It also is permitted in Washington, D.C. Couples who got licenses that day will be eligible to marry Friday under the state’s three-day waiting period.
Several Philadelphia judges have announced plans to be at City Hall both Friday and Saturday to officiate weddings.
Ashley Wilson and Lindsay Vandermay didn’t even wait for dawn’s early light Friday, exchanging vows just after midnight on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in front of about 30 people. Vandermay said the couple felt that the City of Brotherly Love had “opened its arms” to them and other gay couples.
“This is for everybody, so congratulations,” she said.
Nutter’s office would not confirm his plans, and said he has no public appearances scheduled. However, spokesman Mark McDonald said his schedule could change.
Hennessy and Keith are among the 18 gay or lesbian couples who got licenses before City Hall closed on Tuesday.
They had their own ceremony 10 years ago, with more than 100 friends and relatives, in the converted church where they lived. Hennessy, 51, runs a photography business, while the 42-year-old Keith works in sales for a publishing firm.
“We already had decided years ago we were going to be in a committed relationship, but it’s nice to get recognition,” Hennessy said.
Despite their new wedding date, they won’t be the first same-sex couple married in Pennsylvania. Allegheny County Judge Lawrence O’Toole issued two waivers this week, allowing couples to skip the three-day wait.
The county fielded 290 marriage license applications Tuesday and Wednesday, after averaging 10 a day in recent weeks, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said.
A number of same-sex couples have asked Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to perform their ceremony, spokesman Timothy McNulty said. None are scheduled for May, but some are expected to be scheduled next month.
Joe Parisi and Steven Seminelli were among the couples receiving the first licenses Tuesday in Philadelphia. They, too, got a call about being married by the mayor. But they decided to stick with their original plan to be married at the city’s historic Christ Church — where some of the nation’s founders also wed.
“We are very honored and flattered for the (mayor’s) invitation,” Seminelli said. “However, we prefer a more intimate celebration, which will be at our church.”
One of the nation’s first gay rights demonstrations took place in Philadelphia in 1965, on Independence Mall.
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