Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 18, 2011

31 same-sex couples ready to wed in Falls

NIAGARA FALLS — Youngstown resident Mark Lynch and his long-time partner, Thomas Korn, have been dreaming about their wedding day for years.

Next week, Lynch and Korn — who recently celebrated their 29th anniversary together — will officially tie the knot as part of a unique group same-sex marriage ceremony at Niagara Falls State Park.

“To be married in that park is so special to me,” said Lynch, a Niagara Falls native who recalls visiting the park often as a youngster. “It’s just so cool. It really is just the coolest thing in the world to not only be married in the state of New York, but to be married in Niagara Falls and in that park.”

 Lynch and Korn are among 31 same-sex couples who have signed on to participate in what representatives from the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. believe will be the first group ceremony of its kind since last month’s passage of the Marriage Equality Act. Representatives from the tourism agency have now officially set the date. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Monday on Goat Island near the brink of the American and Bridal Veil Falls.  

 “This is such an historic moment for the gay and lesbian community,” Lynch said. “We are so happy that this is finally happening in New York state.”

NTCC officials are expecting the ceremony to draw not only the couples who are getting married, but dozens of family members and friends interested in sharing the occasion. They are also expecting the event to attract media attention from across the state and country, helping to promote Niagara Falls as a destination for those thinking about getting married or newlyweds who might be looking for a spot to honeymoon.

“We feel it’s the first official group wedding across the entire state,” said John Percy, NTCC’s president and CEO. “We’ve done our research to find out if other destinations or locations are doing a group wedding. (New York City) Mayor Bloomberg is marrying two of his staff members and I know there are other weddings planned but, as far as a group wedding to celebrate this passage, we believe we are the first official across the state.”

 Gov. Cuomo Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law on June 24, giving same sex couples the opportunity to be wed under the law. Shortly after the act became official, representatives from NTCC issued a global invitation to same-sex couples, encouraging them to tie the knot near the world-famous waterfalls. The call has so far been answered by 31 same-sex couples who have RSVP’d for the event. Several couples are from Niagara and Erie counties. Others will be arriving from Syracuse, Rochester, Ohio and northern Pennsylvania. Percy hopes the exposure will provide a significant boost to ongoing efforts to grow the local tourism economy.  

“It’s going to highlight the destination and show that we are a welcoming destination for all couples to be married here — heterosexual or same sex couples — and a honeymoon destination as well,” Percy said. “We want to be welcoming to all and I think that was the main goal and the mission of this was to highlight that Niagara Falls, USA is ready for same-sex marriage and that we are welcoming to all participants.”

NTCC Communications Manager Nick Mattera said the agency has received interest from several media outlets both inside and outside Western New York, including the New York Times, Reuters and the Daily, the outlet that provides news coverage for iPad users.

“The national media will be here and Niagara Falls will be in the national spotlight and I think that’s all we can ask in terms of highlighting this destination,” Mattera said.

Preparations for the group wedding, described by Percy as a “simple and classy” affair, came together with help from various local partners. In advance of the notification about the community’s interest in playing host to a high-profile, group same-sex wedding, Percy said NTCC polled the opinions of the owners of local hotels and attractions who contribute to the county tourism agency and the idea received “overwhelming” support.

In the days that followed last month’s announcement, several local partners stepped up to offer help, including Conference Center Niagara Falls, Harris and Lever Florist and Marli’s Florist, Onion Photography and Design, Delaware North, DJ Premier Sound and Tuxedo Junction. The wedding cake will be supplied by DiCamillo’s Bakery. The ceremony will be officiated by Pastor Marna Pritchard from First Congregational United Church of Christ, the Rev. Teresa Klime from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Niagara and Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, who serves as a marriage officer for the city.

The group wedding also is being supported by Pride Partners, including the Empire State Pride Agenda, Gay and Lesbian Youth Services, Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays and the Pride Center of WNY. A group of volunteers is being compiled to establish a “circle of love” to surround the couples during the ceremony to show support for them and unity for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. Members of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus will perform select numbers during the ceremony.

“This event would not be possible without the dedicated, passionate partners who have stepped up to the plate and realized the historic significance of this ceremony,” Percy said.

Area clerks offices are doing their parts as well. Under state law, a 24-hour waiting period is required between the issuance of a marriage license and the civil ceremony. City Clerk Carol Antonucci will open her office at 6 a.m. Sunday to accommodate license applications. Clerks offices in the towns of Niagara and Lewiston will be open by request on Sunday as well.

Percy said NTCC continues to promote trip packages to all couples because the agency wants to restore the image of Niagara Falls, USA as one of the premiere wedding and honeymoon destinations in the world.

“Just this one opportunity has really given us the shot in the arm that we’ve needed to rejuvenate that brand and bring it back to the forefront,” he said.

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