Pictures of Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd taking their vows at the edge of
Niagara Falls became the first joyous images of marriage
equality in New York. The wedding was also, almost surprisingly, without incident or
protest — a stark contrast to the years the couple spent fighting to reach that
A year and a half earlier, on February 10, 2010, the couple gathered the proper
paperwork, some friends, and $40. Then they went to Buffalo City Hall to apply
for a marriage
license. The New York State Senate had voted down a gay marriage bill two months earlier. Although sympathetic, the city clerk
informed the aspiring newlyweds that she was unable to go against state law and
issue the document.
Lambert pressed about the law and asked, “So, if she was a man, it’s OK?” The clerk responded that this was true. So Lambert turned
around, asked if there were any takers, and somewhat shockingly, obtained a
marriage license with a random man from the crowd.
“We did not complete the process of getting married. That would have been silly,”
said Lambert. “Just as silly as denying me a license to marry the person
I truly loved — 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.”
The point Lambert was trying to make was simple — to show that, no matter
what the U.S. Constitution states, there is minimal separation between church
New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who by most measures appears to be one of the most
pro-LGBT governors in history, made sure to include religious and
nonprofit exemptions in the Marriage Equality Act, which many believed
wouldn’t pass without them.
Even with the exemptions, the state Senate passed the bill by a slim margin,
with a vote of 33-29 June 24 in the Republican-led chamber. It went
into effect exactly one month later.
That’s when Lambert, a prominent LGBT activist from Buffalo, married her
partner of over a decade. The mayor of Niagara Falls, Paul Dyster, married them
as family and friends looked on. And they waved and smiled while walking
back down the aisle for the first time as a married couple, with Lady Gaga’s
“The Edge of Glory” blaring over the speakers. They will always be among the first
married same-sex couples in New York, which is now the largest state in America
to allow gay couples the right to marry.
Most important, Lambert and Rudd are happy
with settling into their simple married life — just like their heterosexual
counterparts. When asked if anything has changed in the few weeks since
their high-profile nuptials, Rudd responded, “Not really. Kitty still
won’t do the dishes!”
The fight for marriage equality was often showcased in New York City, but
Lambert and Rudd have much devotion for Buffalo, a place that has strong
political activism even outside the LGBT community. After a weekend
visit, the couple moved there on a whim in 2003. “The LGBT community here is
very diverse. People are down to earth,” said Lambert. “We love
each other and take care of each other here.”
Lambert almost immediately got involved with the gay rights movement
locally. She became president of OUTspoken for Equality, a non-profit
social justice group that advocates for LGBT rights in the Western New York
“It started in our kitchen table with just two old grandmas and a hand
painted banner on an old sheet,” said Lambert. “Now, our little grassroots
organization is over 1,800 members strong. They come from every walk of life
and from every financial, religious, and educational background.”
And these Buffalo grandmas don’t discriminate. A majority of their members,
Lambert says, are straight supporters.
Kitty (foreground) at City Hall.
Niagra Falls on the night of their wedding.