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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 28, 2011
After Centi resigns
GUILDERLAND Shirley Spence and Leslie Graham were glowing with love, and something akin to triumph, as they walked out of Guilderland Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
They were the first same-sex couple to get married in Guilderland. The Marriage Equality Act took effect statewide on Sunday, July 24.
Cindy Wadach looked equally joyful after she performed the ceremony; she was appointed as a marriage officer the same day the act took effect.
The couple lives in Albany, but came to Guilderland to get married specifically so Wadach could officiate.
“We wanted her because she actually wanted to do it; it wasn’t something she just had to do,” said Spence. She also noted that they wanted to avoid the crowds and the protests that were taking place in Albany.
Spence, who is 59, and Graham, who is 47, met 12 years ago at a party in California, and have been together ever since. Graham is a program manager at the Center for Disabilities, and Spence is a retired postal worker.
Wadach, who works as the town’s director of senior services, said as soon as she met the couple, she could “see the love between them.”
“Her enthusiasm made us even more ecstatic than we already were,” said Spence.
“It was like we’d known her for years; it was just perfect,” Graham said.
“We just wanted something small and simple,” whispered one of the women right before the start.
Each woman was escorted down the aisle, and each carried a bouquet. Graham, escorted by a friend, wore pink, and Spence, escorted by her brother, wore white. They stood up in front of Wadach, who wore a black robe.
The ceremony lasted no more than 10 minutes vows were spoken and rings were exchanged as the couple stole glances at each other throughout, and shared a small kiss in the middle of it.
Wadach shed tears of happiness when she officially pronounced them married, and the audience, including some town hall employees who had gathered, erupted into applause.
Afterward, while cameras flashed on all sides, the women laughed and joked with their families.
“I’m a Spence now!” Graham proclaimed.
“It was just so beautiful,” said Wadach. She said would gladly have been a marriage officer even before the Marriage Equality Act had passed, but “the role was already filled.”
Town Clerk Rosemary Centi had been the marriage officer since 2001, but she resigned when same-sex marriage became legal, because, she said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” To perform a same-sex marriage would conflict with her Catholic faith, said Centi.
Three people submitted letters of interest to the town to fill the unpaid post of marriage officer; all three were approved by the town board on Sunday. The others are Kathy Burbank, director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, and Sean Maguire, spokesman for Guilderland fire companies. Usually, about two marriages are performed by the officer each month in Guilderland.
“I was so happy this law was passed; it is a huge step for civil rights. I’m honored to be part of this,” Wadach told The Enterprise yesterday.
Though Wadach is just as excited about performing all types of weddings, she said there was definitely something special about wedding Spence and Graham.
“She kept thanking us for letting her perform the ceremony, and we were thanking her for doing it, and everyone was just so joyful,” Graham said.
“That ceremony would have been beautiful even if it had taken place in a dark shack, they were just glowing so much,” said Wadach.
“Obviously this doesn’t change our relationship, because we have been together so long, but it’s nice to be able to say that we’re married, and we have some rights,” Spence said yesterday.
“All people grow up and dream that they’ll fall in love, and get married, and have a nice wedding,” Graham said. “I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime, but I got a wedding.”
Getting married was like “closing a circle” for herself and Spence, said Graham.
“It’s about time for equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people,” concluded Wadach. “After all, love is love.”
By Anne Hayden