Four same-sex couples ready to tie the knot legally

Charles Dowdy (left) and Mark Henderson get a hug after filling out marriage license paperwork in Collingswood.
Charles Dowdy (left) and Mark Henderson get a hug after filling out marriage license paperwork in Collingswood. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 20, 2013

CHERRY HILL The four couples were complete strangers when they excitedly rushed into the municipal clerk's office Friday afternoon to apply for marriage licenses.

They will make history Monday when they become the first same-sex couples in Cherry Hill to marry in ceremonies acknowledged by the state to be legal. All four couples will take their vows before Mayor Chuck Cahn.

"It's an exciting moment. It's nice to share it with somebody who understands," said Megan Nachod, 46, with her partner, Leigh Nachod, 37.

The New Jersey Supreme Court cleared the way Friday for same-sex nuptials to begin in the state Monday, rejecting a delay requested by the Christie administration.

The high court stated in its decision "that the public interest does not favor a stay."

In Cherry Hill and elsewhere in the state, gay couples began applying for marriage licenses. Because of the state's 72-hour wait period, they must hold off on saying "I do" until Monday.

"I've waited this long - another 72 hours is no big thing," said Dennis Gaspari.

Gaspari, 61, and his partner, Ed Cameron, 56, will celebrate their 33d anniversary Monday by finally getting married.

"I'm actually shaking and happy. This is huge," said Renai Hall, as she waited with her longtime partner, Rose Papa, to sign their license. "Hopefully, this is the final big step."

Hall, 53, and Papa, 52, were the first Cherry Hill couple joined in a civil union in 2007.

The Nachods were the first to apply for a civil-union license that year.

"I'm very excited to benefit from the hard work that people have put in for a long time to fight for marriage equality," said Leigh Nachod, an affordable-housing consultant.

The Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti, senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, and his partner, Jeff, and their son, Jacen, 2, were the last to apply for a marriage license.

Said Jeff: "About time. We're thrilled."

Municipal Clerk Registrar Nancy L. Saffos eagerly processed their applications. Another employee snapped photographs.

"This is the best part of my job," Saffos said. "What's fair is right."

As the couples stood crowded at a counter in the cramped foyer of the clerk's office, Benjamin Nachod, 4, posed a question to his parents: "Why are you getting married again?"

"I don't have an answer yet" suitable for a child, a smiling Leigh Nachod replied.

The couple also have a daughter, Mira, 11.

The couples say they want the same protections and rights as heterosexual couples, something not afforded under civil unions.

After signing their licenses, there were a few tears as the couples exchanged hugs. Former strangers became friends. All four couples promised to take their vows together.

"It's a group achievement," Megan Nachod said.

Renai Hall added, "We are making history."

856-779-3814 @mlburney

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