Volume 76, Number 53 | May 30 - June 5, 2007

Gustavo Archilla, 91, and Elmer Lokkins, 88, a couple for 62 years, at the 2007 Wedding March.

Marchers can sense marriage isn’t a bridge too far

By Paul Schindler

A dire weather forecast that revived memories of last year when heavy downpours drenched roughly 1,000 participants made the 2007 Wedding March on Sat., May 19, the smallest in the event’s four-year history.

No more than 200 turned out May 19 for the annual event organized by Marriage Equality New York, which this year began with a rally in Foley Square just north of City Hall that was followed by a brisk, at times wet, trudge over the Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza near Borough Hall.

Those who turned out were fortified not only by small umbrellas arrayed in the six colors of the rainbow, by which marchers organized themselves, but more importantly by the encouraging words from the two legislators sponsoring Governor Eliot Spitzer’s marriage equality bill in Albany — Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and State Senator Tom Duane, both out gay Manhattan Democrats.

O’Donnell, who represents the Upper West Side, told the crowd that in the weeks since he assumed sponsorship of the bill that the governor announced at the end of April, O’Donnell had identified 52 Assembly colleagues willing to sign on as co-sponsors and another 20 or so who are prepared to vote aye when the measure comes to the floor. In the 150-member chamber, 76 votes are needed for passage.

Five days after the march, an O’Donnell spokesperson said the total number of sponsors had risen to 55, with as many as 78 expressing willingness to support the bill in a floor vote.

O’Donnell said the biggest misconception he must overcome among his Assembly colleagues is the fear that marriage equality would, in some unexplained fashion, compel communities of faith to perform wedding ceremonies against their will. At Foley Square, he quoted Thomas Jefferson, with an observation that examined the church/state separation issue from precisely the opposite perspective: “Our civil liberties have no dependence on religious opinion.”

Duane didn’t wade into the numbers game, instead choosing the part of cheerleader.

“I believe in the marriage vernacular,” he told a crowd that had dissipated after 45 minutes of a chilly, damp trek. “It’s raining. We’re having good luck and we’re having good luck in the Legislature…. We’re going to have marriage in New York State very, very, very, very, very soon.”

With the Senate in Republican hands, even by the slimmest of margins, no vote on marriage equality is in the offing there, at least for this session. In contrast, there’s a very good chance that the Assembly could vote before the June 21 recess.

For those at the march action cannot come fast enough.

Gustavo Archilla was heading home from voice lessons at Carnegie Hall in 1945 when he met his lover Elmer Lokkins in Columbus Circle. Archilla, a native of Puerto Rico, worked in New York’s then-thriving shipping industry. Lokkins, raised in Washington State, had just come out of the military, and was in New York hoping to enter Columbia University. He was listening to a man giving a speech in Columbus Circle when he was approached by someone whom he immediately came to think of as his “beautiful Spanish don.”

The couple has been together for the more than six decades since — Archilla is 91 and Lokkins just turned 88 — and today live in their home of more than 50 years near Columbia. For most of that life together, legal marriage was probably not conceivable. In its place, they enjoyed a full life, the support and love of family and friends, and most important, each other.

“After 62 years, it’s wonderful to have a partner who gives you a kiss every time he walks by you,” Archilla said with evident emotion about Lokkins.

In 2003, Canada brought something new into their life. They married across the bridge in Niagara Falls that year.

Speaking to the audience in Cadman Plaza after the May 19 march, Archilla said, “Canada made it possible for us. I hope everywhere else it will soon be possible. Maybe while we are still alive, though there is not much time left.”

Other couples are, relatively speaking, just starting their journey.

Allison Lucey and Amanda Smith, who live on the Upper East Side, have been together for three-and-a-half years. Lucey, who works in sports marketing, grew up in Pennsylvania. Her partner was raised just across the George Washington Bridge, in Bergen County, N.J.

Asked whether they had registered as domestic partners, the couple explained they had not; instead, they said, they are engaged. They plan to marry in August 2008 — in New York, if it’s possible, or in New Jersey, if things proceed from civil unions to marriage equality faster there than here. Or, if neither state delivers by then, they will marry in Canada.

Regarding the prospect of a New York wedding, Lucey said, “We stay hopeful, with cautious optimism.”

Jeffrey Friedman and Andrew Zwerin have been together 22 years. They met while at J.F.K. High School in Bellmore, Long Island. Today, after living in Brooklyn Heights, they are back on the Island, in Rockville Center, where they are raising their son, Joshua Zwerin, 4.

Zwerin works at HBO; Friedman is a stay-at-home dad. The couple noted that their state senator is Dean Skelos, the second-ranking Republican, who voted against the gay civil rights law when it was enacted in 2002.

Gene Guzman turned up in Foley Square alone, carrying a photo of Augustine Medina. They spent 30 years as a couple before Medina died of liver disease four years ago.

Guzman and Medina met in Chicago and moved to New York, working in the gourmet food industry. Like Lucey and Smith, they didn’t register as domestic partners with the city; instead they drew up wills, healthcare proxies and powers of attorney to protect their union and their property.

Guzman said with the loss of his longtime partner came diminished household income, with none of the survivor benefits that might have come with marriage. At 53, he dates occasionally but isn’t ready to think about a new relationship.

Guzman pointed toward several younger marchers nearby on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“I’m out here for these younger kids,” he said, as he toyed with the photo in his jacket pocket.


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