Three same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses in Southold

Josephine and Jean Cola-Meo

Only three same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses at Southold Town Hall on the first two days they were available, according to the Town Clerk’s office.

Monday was the first day same-sex couples in town could obtain marriage licenses in line with the new state law passed June 29.

In the just-published North Fork Women for Women Fund newsletter, organization president Debra Roth wrote, “It’s a complicated decision” with “numerous financial, legal and tax implications that we all need to understand and evaluate.” Her organization is putting together a panel presentation to help couples explore the implications of marriage, while acknowledging that “each couple’s situation is unique.”

Alan Santo and his partner of 21 years, Michael Buckley, who split their time between Cutchogue and New York City, obtained a marriage license at Town Hall Monday morning, but hadn’t yet determined just where or when they’ll tie the knot.

“It’s almost anti-climactic,” Mr. Santo said of exchanging marriage vows. “I guess the reason to do it is so many people worked so hard for this. We owe it to all those people.”

With the federal Defense of Marriage Act still in place, marriage will make no financial difference to the two men, Mr. Santo said.

They have written wills and their families wouldn’t interfere with their wishes, he said.

If the federal Respect for Marriage Act introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) were to pass, it would repeal DOMA and extend Social Security benefits on the same basis to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual couples, he said. That would make a difference, because it would allow a married survivor to receive benefits at the same rate as his or her spouse if that spouse’s benefits were higher.

But Mr. Santo wasn’t optimistic that would happen anytime soon.

The couple has an adopted son, Randall, now 23, who has been with them for 13 years. Mr. Santo is chairman of the anesthesiology department at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and Mr. Buckley is a teacher, currently unemployed because of the layoffs that have hit so hard in recent years.

With a 24-hour waiting period before they could wed, the couple and their son headed back to the city Monday afternoon because Mr. Santo was on-duty at the hospital that night.

Mr. Santo speculated they might return to Southold Tuesday to marry, or might opt for another Long Island venue.

Both Mr. Santo and Mr. Buckley are “practicing Catholics” who regularly attend Mass at Our Lady of Ostrabrama or Sacred Heart R.C. churches, But they won’t seek to marry in the church, Mr. Santo said, acknowledging that the Catholic church objects to same-sex unions.

The other couples who obtained marriage licenses in Southold are Kathleen Sampson and Kathleen Farrell, and Giacianta Coia and Josephine Meo.

North Fork Women for Women Fund newsletter is encouraging same-sex couples to discuss their thoughts about marriage. They’re asking those who previously married in other states or in Canada to let them know if they plan to renew their vows now that New York State recognizes same-sex marriage.

“For some of us, this is new ground and we look to tour guides to show us the way,” Lisa Scott wrote in the NFWFWF newsletter.
For those who are exploring their options, NFWFWF would like to hear their stories and what considerations they’re bringing to the decision about whether or not to marry.

If you’d like to weigh in with NFWFWF, email the group at either [email protected] or [email protected].

The Southold Town clerk’s office issues marriage licenses on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

[email protected]

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