Kitty Lambert and her partner, Cheryle Rudd, tried to apply for a marriage license in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday. When their application was rejected, Lambert asked for a random man from the nearly 20 people gathered in the city clerk’s office. She and a male stranger less than half her age were issued the marriage license.
Lambert, a 53-year-old art gallery manager, cofounded the Western New York group OUTspoken for Equality with her partner in 2004. She spoke with Advocate.com about their demonstration and the “insane” laws that restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.
Advocate.com: Have you ever applied for a same-sex marriage license before Wednesday?
Kitty Lambert: Traditionally for the last four years, OUTspoken for Equality has done a rally in front of City Hall for Valentine’s Day. This year, after the marriage vote loss in the state senate that was horrific and insulting and grossly discriminatory, we decided we wanted to do something different. So far, all of our actions have been nice, ask-y things. This time, we wanted to make a statement that would make it clear that we were angry about the vote. Just because we’re same-gender couples, we can’t get a license? That’s insane. That’s the statement we needed to make.
Who is the guy you are now licensed to marry, anyway?
His name is Edward Arthur Manz. Some graduate students I know found him. I first met him on Wednesday when he stepped forward. He’s 22. Now everyone teases me and calls me a cougar. He goes to Buffalo State University. I think he’s getting a degree in teaching. I really don’t know. He’s charming and he’s sweet, but I did scold him because he was dressed in holey jeans.
Any plans to tie the knot officially?
We could, but we will not. Ed is gay. If we don’t solemnize this marriage in 60 days, it is eliminated from the system and it is no longer valid.
Did the city clerk’s office try to stop you and Ed from marrying?
but the employee knew we did not know each other. Initially, when we
first got in there, she was very friendly and bubbly. She said, ‘Ok,
have a seat.’ Then when my partner Cheryle and I sat down, it was like
this mass panic. Somebody in the back scrambled to call security. Later
on, when filling out the paperwork for Ed and I, she was laughing. They
Do you think you disproved the sanctity of marriage?
the stuff that we keep getting told by our senators is that this is a
religious issue. But if we have different genitalia, I can marry a kid
who is the age of my grandkids. I don’t know anything about him. How
really sacred is this piece of paper that you would give to Britney
Spears in a drunken dither?
The point is, your rights are
contracted with that contractual piece of paper. For $40, I could give
Ed my home, my health insurance, and we wouldn’t even have to live
together. And yet my partner has had cancer twice, I have heart issues,
and we’re dealing with that. I can’t protect the woman that I love,
although I could die of a heart attack tomorrow and I could lose her to
cancer over the next two years. And that’s scary.
Are you still hopeful of achieving marriage equality in New York?
politics is local. All change starts at home. You have to start in your
own community. If your legislator is not educable, you need to get one
who is. You need to vote. You need to empower yourself. You need to
stand up, and you need to get stronger. The religious right figured out
how it worked. Grassroots is it. Every single American has the power to
change this country. That $40 piece of paper isn’t sacred until you get
it and you make it your own.