When Marybeth McGowan and Leslie Masson bought tickets to go see Broadway’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert four months ago they had no idea that on the night of the performance they would become a part of history. The Marriage Equality Act by the New York State Senate while the play was in progress on June 24.
“What are the chances that is where we were when it got passed?” Leslie Masson said of the fact they were at a Broadway show starring drag queens on a quest for love and friendship.
The play ended and one of the main characters announced to the packed theater that the law had passed, making New York the most populous state in the country to allow gay marriage.
“The place erupted,” Masson said. "The city was electric that night."
In the excitement of it all McGowan turned and asked Masson to marry her and Masson replied with a resounding yes.
Five weeks later and the two women are now the first gay couple to have tied the knot in the City of Peekskill. Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster performed the wedding ceremony in the her City Hall office last night, with about 15 close family members watching with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces.
“At first we just thought it would be one or two family members, but then we knew everyone would want to come,” Masson said.
Masson, 67, has been very active in the community for years and McGowan, 49, is a Peekskill city councilmember.
The two met more than twenty years ago on an Eastchester softball league and were friends for years until their relationship developed into the marriage that it is today. They have been in a committed relationship for the last 16 years, for about as long as they have both lived in Peekskill. They now share a home together in the city and McGowan's nephew T.J. lives with them.
"I find for me, the most important part - regardless of the ring and the ceremony - is we were in a committed relationship already," McGowan said. 'I am so proud of both our families that have always been supportive. This brought excitement to their lives and it is a wonderful thing for our families. It just shows our parents instilled in us that you love who you love."
Masson has an intriguing personal history, among her many accomplishments and experiences she has played professional tennis (for one day) and is the inventor of the E.T. finger novelty toy. She has also run her own public relations company for the last 29 years, and, most recently, started in Peekskill.
McGowan is a thoughtful and dedicated political leader with a background in the health care industry. She currently works as Director of Medical Billing Services for a New York City financial management firm.
One reason the two decided to get married so quickly after it became legal was a fear that the law may get overturned, they said.
“I am just happy that people like myself will get recognized as maybe not being freaks,” said Masson. “And it is about having rights."
Masson said that she and McGowan are also happy the law was passed because they believe it will help LGBT kids who may feel isolated. Masson said that she hopes the new law helps gay kids learn not to feel like outcasts and see that in the eyes of the law gay people are as equal as anyone else.
Masson also acknowledged the economic benefit that gay marriage will have for the state and local businesses.
“It will be a boom to the economy,” she said. “People will be flying to New York to get married.”
Alan Drogy, owner of The Mansion at Colonial Terrace, said they just booked their first gay wedding this week. They have held commitment ceremonies at The Mansion before, but this will be their first real gay wedding.
Masson and McGowan had immediate family join them at McGowan's brother's house following last night's ceremony and plan to have a bigger celebration in September.
Following the simple 90 second-long ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Mary Foster said, "since we are friends this does not feel like history, it feels like a natural process. It feels great to celebrate their lifelong committment to each other."
McGowan and Masson exuded happiness while standing in front of Mayor Foster as she perfomed the ceremony. Their smiles were reflected in the loving expressions on their closest family memebrs' faces.
Once the brief ceremony was over everyone took turns hugging the couple. And after sixteen dedicated years to each other, the two women are now officially recognized as a family under New York State Law.