NIAGARA FALLS — Gay-rights activists Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd were legally married the very first moment they could be during a midnight ceremony at Niagara Falls that ushered in same-sex marriage in the state and marked a pivotal moment in the national drive for recognition.
With a rainbow-lit Niagara Falls as a backdrop early Sunday, Lambert, 54, and Rudd, 53, were among the first gay couples to tie the knot with the blessing of the state, which last month became the sixth and largest to sanction gay marriage. Couples in Albany, Hudson and Long Island also exchanged vows just after midnight Saturday, kicking off what was expected to be a Sunday packed with weddings.
Lambert and Rudd, grandmothers with 12 grandchildren between them, have been together for more than a decade and had long been fighting for the right to marry.
The couple, both of Buffalo, smiled broadly as they exchanged traditional marriage vows, promising to love and cherish each other in sickness and in health. A crowd of several hundred people cheered as they were pronounced married and shared their first kiss.
"What an incredible night this was," said Lambert, who wore an electric blue satin gown with a sequined train for the midnight ceremony and carried a bouquet of blue hydrangeas. "This was an amazing night. Everything was absolutely perfect."
Rudd, who wore a white tuxedo with tails and white tennis shoes, said she felt "great relief" at being married because now she's "just like everyone else" and has the same rights.
"It feels great: I'm married," she said with an excited laugh.
Mayor Paul Dyster performed the ceremony, which was attended by some of the state lawmakers whose vote last month made it possible.
Lambert said in the days leading up to the event that she had told Rudd "way back that when this went through we won't wait a moment longer than we have to."