As the seconds ticked toward midnight July 23, Paul Dyster, the mayor of Niagara Falls, N.Y., anxiously looked at his watch. Kitty Lambert (above, right), a prominent LGBT activist from Buffalo, and her partner of over a decade, Cheryle Rudd, stood in front of him as their friends and family looked on. It was a moment they all had fought for.
And within minutes, it was all over. The grandmothers were married a second past midnight July 24, the first possible moment for legal same-sex marriage in New York State. The duo waved and smiled, walking together for the first time as a married couple, while Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” blared over speakers.
While Lambert and Rudd go down in history as the first same-sex couple wed in New York — the largest U.S. state to date to offer equal marriage rights to gay couples — the ceremony merely recognized their long-held commitment.
Rudd is “the one person I had been committed to for over a decade, the one I share five children and 12 grandchildren with, the one I own a home with, and the one I survived two runs of cancer and three heart attacks with,” says Lambert.
Photos of Lambert and Rudd taking their vows at the edge of Niagara Falls — with a rainbow light display reflecting off the water — became one of the first joyous images of Empire State marriage equality that were seen across the world. The wedding was also, says Lambert, almost surprisingly without incident or protest, a stark contrast to the years the couple spent fighting to reach that moment. There were no demonstrators, just a simple wedding with children, grandchildren, their closest friends, and of course the reporters.
But when asked if anything has changed in the few weeks since their high-profile nuptials, Rudd responds, “Not really. Kitty still won’t do the dishes.”