Historic first married same-sex couple in Queens

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THE QUEENS COURIER/Photos by Vishal Persaud<br>
Shane Serkiz (left) and Gregory Levine (right) of Astoria pose outside Borough Hall in Queens as the first same-sex couple to get married in the borough.
THE QUEENS COURIER/Photos by Vishal Persaud
Shane Serkiz (left) and Gregory Levine (right) of Astoria pose outside Borough Hall in Queens as the first same-sex couple to get married in the borough.

Four thousand two hundred twenty-three days – that’s how long this couple has waited to get married. At a little before 7 a.m. this past Sunday morning – they were the first ones on line.

Gregory Levine, 32, and Shane Serkiz, 33, made New York State history as the first same-sex couple to get hitched in Queens. The happy couple said they didn’t plan to be the first to get married in the borough, but were certain that they wanted to make it official on the first day.

“In my genes is be early, and I figured there was going to be a long, long line,” said Levine. “I just wanted to be in and out – and it worked.”

The teacher couple from Astoria made it official a little after 9 a.m. to a packed room of journalists, photographers and family members. The five-minute ceremony was a flash compared to the 11 years the couple waited to make their commitment legal.

“I think this is really good. Shane has been my best friend for a long time,” Levine said.

Levine, a high school math teacher originally from Brooklyn, and Serkiz, a special education teacher from upstate New York, said they met each other through friends while students at Binghamton University.

Levine said he proposed to Serkiz on December 31, 1999 and the couple has been domestic partners in the city for almost eight years. They plan to exchange vows in another marriage ceremony in October.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the landmark same-sex marriage legislation into law on June 24 after months of tense negotiations in the New York State legislature.

The bill failed to pass the state senate back in 2009, and many were wary over its fate until the last minute this year. The bill overcame a Republican controlled state senate and gained approval with a 33-29 vote.

“It sent a chill up my spine to know and hear in this affirmative public way the law of New York had been changed to recognize all families. It was much more overwhelming than I actually had thought it would be,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who made a stop at Borough Hall that afternoon.

July 24 marked the first day in state history that same-sex couples could get married. Out of the 659 marriage licenses issued citywide this past Sunday, 89 were handed out in Queens.

For the first couple, their marriage is symbolic of a commitment that they made to each other a long time ago – which is now legal and official.

“The word marriage for some people seems to mean something other than what I think it means, which is an announcement to your community that we agree that we feel a bond of closeness and trust and comfort and love,” Levine said.