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Gay Marriage Sunday; Two LES Couples Celebrate!

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Andy Berg and Dominic Pisciotta with twins Spencer and Olivia.

There was a media frenzy surrounding the first day of gay marriage in New York yesterday, but it wasn’t just a huge state and national news event. The momentous occasion was a Lower East Side story, as well.  This is because two local couples — who happen to live in the same section of the same building on Grand Street — ended up playing very high profile roles in the dramatic, history-making day.

Carol Anastasio and Mimi Brown, who may have gotten more ink in the Daily News this past week than Barack Obama, were among the first couples married at the city clerk’s office yesterday morning.  Meanwhile, their friends and neighbors Andy Berg and Dominic Pisciotta were the last of 484 couples to read their vows. Dominic had a few chores to take care of first. As an assistant commissioner of technology for the city, he was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly on a day in which all eyes were on New York.

Carol and Mimi were picked up outside their Seward Park Co-up building — in a stretch limo – bright and early yesterday morning.  After mistakenly showing up at the Marriage Bureau a month early, they were showered with attention and an outpouring of generosity. A free wedding at the Old Homestead Restaurant and a Costa Rica honeymoon were two of the fringe benefits.

But first things first: making it official with a New York state marriage license.  Soon after arriving at the clerk’s office, they were greeted by Dominic, who helped guide them through the details of the morning.   As they filled out paperwork, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane (who fought tirelessly for the passage of the gay marriage law), stopped by to offer their best wishes.

City Council Speaker Chris Quinn, Carol Anastasio, Mimi Brown, Dominic Pisciotta.

It was then on to a small chapel down the hall, for a short ceremony officiated by city official James Mitchell.  Carol, who works for the city’s Parks Department, and Mimi, a photo editor, have been together more than 20 years. But emotions ran high  as they read their vows, and the significance of the moment sunk in.  Trying to hold back tears Brown exclaimed, “I promise to keep you close as my best friend, my sounding board, my strength… I love you.”

Hours later, having successfully navigated the technology challenges of the day, it was Dominic and Andy’s turn. Inside their Lower East Side apartment, Andy entertained family and friends, waiting for the call from Dominic that it was their time.  For their kids, 8-year old twins, Spencer and Olivia, the anticipation was almost too much to take!  Back when the State Legislature passed the gay marriage law, Andy had suggested an autumn wedding and, perhaps, a leisurely cocktail party afterward.

A decade ago, they held a commitment ceremony in Vermont, 150 guests in attendance.  Since that time, both Dominic and Andy have worked hard for marriage equality in New York. In 2003, they were featured on the cover of Newsweek for a story that asked, “Is gay marriage next?”  Dominic, as chair of Community Board 3, has been a prominent gay rights advocate.

They did not, however, necessarily feel the urgency to marry on Day 1.  But Spencer and Olivia were persuasive. It mattered to them that their dads were married.  “I’ve been waiting for this day half my life (since age 5!),” Spencer explained. They even picked out the rings (rainbow colored plastic beauties).

So shortly after 4 o’clock, the entourage piled into three cars and made the short trip over to the clerk’s office, where the long lines and media horde was mostly gone. Camera crews in tow, they were escorted into another municipal chapel, which would host the final ceremony of the day.

Dominic and Andy, who’s a programming executive at A & E, exchanged humorous but heartfelt vows. “I’m here 10 years later so happy to be on this journey with you, in awe of the love you have for Spencer and Olivia, humbled by your dedication to our community and your job and so, so happy happy I spotted you from across the room so many years ago,” Andy said.

Dominic added, “Ten years ago in Vermont, in front of 150 of our friends and family, I promised to do cartwheels when you needed to laugh… A decade later, I can rely on our kids to do that, and now vow to do what I can to remain physically intact.”

Before heading off for a casual celebration at Donnybrook, the bar on Clinton Street, Dominic reflected on the events of the past 10 hours. Having played a part in helping so many couples fulfill a dream of equality in New York state meant a lot, he said.  Capping it off in such a personal way made the experience all that more meaningful.  In response to a reporter’s question about the significance of the day, Dominic said, “today New York said you can marry who you want to marry.”

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  1. Yay!  Congratulations to all the couples whose dreams were realized on Sunday.
    And particular congratulations to Carol, MiMi, Dominic & Andy, our lovely neighbors!

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