The first brides united in legal matrimony in New York City are now separated, by death. Connie Kopelov, 90, died Saturday in Manhattan after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
She and her partner of 23 years, Phyllis Siegel, now her widow, were the first same-sex couple to be married in New York when the state law took effect on July 24, 2011.
According to The New York Times, Kopelov, then 85, and Siegel, 76 at the time, received their marriage license from clerk Michael McSweeney at around 9 a.m. McSweeney said, “I now pronounce you married.”
Kopelov, sitting in a wheelchair, smiled and held their marriage license aloft for photographers.
“I lost my breath,” Siegel told The Times in March. “It was just the most exciting loss of breath I’ve ever had. I just was so happy.”
They had met in the 1980’s working for Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). “She was always fighting for an issue,” Siegel told the paper. “She was always for the underdog.”
Constance Kopelov was born on April 14, 1926, in Kokomo, Ind., the daughter of Samuel and Bessie Kopelov, The Times reported.
She had a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern University and a master’s from Goddard College in Vermont.
Kopelov’s work focused on women’s issues, according to the paper, and she taught courses at Cornell University and New York University on the history of women’s labor.
Kopelov is also survived by a sister, Deborah Dorosin.