A Beach Wedding How-To
By Nicole Pressly
With Emily Aldridge

For a couple that fell in love here or simply loves the island for its charm, there couldn’t be a better place for a wedding than Fire Island. While hosting a large event on the island may be a little tricky at times, with creativity and the right resources, planning a beautiful wedding at a romantic bay- or oceanfront location can be a fun and rewarding experience. We’re here to help.

Tequila Jacks and the Ocean View Hotel above it in Robbins Rest are ideally located for a real getaway experience. Situated in a small hamlet west of Ocean Beach, the establishment feels isolated. It is on the bay with private dock and access only by water taxi or private boat. Able to charter boats and ferry your wedding party across from Bay Shore, Tequila Jacks ensures that the trip is a personal affair from the start. Able to accommodate a party of up to 400 people, weather permitting, the hotel also has nine rooms above to sleep the lucky few. Owner Jim Casio’s wife Ann Marie was director of sales at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho, a large 1,000-seat restaurant, for 10 years. She prepares all winter for the weddings at Tequila Jacks. They hire a separate catering staff. With only on-site catering, the custom-made affairs range from $70 per person depending on the date, size, etc.
With a wedding coming up next week, an additional two in September, and more than 20 off-site weddings held in the past few years, the staff at the Island Mermaid in Ocean Beach certainly has the experience to create a snag-free wedding. Executive chef Kristeen Birchard, chef Carmen, and John the general manager work together to “take all the pain out of it,” said owner Scott Hirsch. “We’ve been doing it so long – from the tents to the DJ, the food to the decorations – we do it all.” The restaurant can hold up to 120 people and prices generally run from $80 to $100 per person. They can also cater affairs from The Pines to Kismet.
The Hideaway Restaurant in Ocean Beach offers a little bit of everything. A couple looking for a more intimate setting can have an elegant bay-view reception at the restaurant. After the reception ends, the party can continue next door at the boisterous Housers Bar for a night of dancing and drinking. When the night finally ends, accomodations for guests are conveniently offered above the restaurant in Houser’s Hotel, which recently renovated 26 bedrooms. “We are very flexible. We will work with you to make it a memorable day,” said owner Brian O’Handley. Prices range from $50 per person and up.
Maguire’s Restaurant at the western edge of Ocean Beach is the largest venue in Ocean Beach. They can fit over 150 people comfortably, even in foul weather. Co-owner Jim Betz will close the restaurant, a full-time catering establishment, for a large affair during the season. Catering choices include buffets, raw bars, display stations and cocktail hour on the bay-front deck. Prices start at $80 per person for a buffet; prices are higher for a three-course sit-down meal.
Jim works with local florist Debbie across the walk at South Bay Trading and The Seasons Bed and Breakfast on Denhoff Walk.
“We love weddings and host them all summer long,” said Harvey Levine, owner of the Seasons Bed & Breakfast, Fire Island’s only bed and breakfast accommodations. Able to serve a beautiful breakfast buffet in the outside garden for the morning before or after the wedding, the Seasons staff will even dress the golf cart!
Fire Island Hotel in Ocean Bay Park, just 100 yards from the beach, is the island’s largest hotel and one of the most frequented wedding venues. Four weddings are planned for this summer alone. With a swimming pool and top-notch restaurant, the hotel’s recent renovations allow it to hold wedding receptions in a garden location. Able to accommodate up to 150 people, the hotel has 43 rooms, many of which can sleep up to six people. Costs start at about $70 per person, but depend on the event. “We try to tailor the wedding to the couple’s needs. Weddings here are a whole hotel affair – from the catering to the set-up,” said Patty Loesch, general manager of the hotel and restaurant. “It’s simple having a wedding here. It’s just the weather off-season that is important – but besides that we have no problems.”

Wedding Jewelry
Kenny Goodman, local artist in Ocean Beach, famous for his “Little Kenny” necklace charms in silver, has many wedding jewelry options. He offers sterling silver custom-made wedding bands as well as bride and groom gifts for the wedding party. The playful silver starfish, hearts, and surfboards are all perfect Fire Island-style wedding mementos.

Domestic Relations Law Is Unconstutional
By Mike Lavers

Following an election cycle that saw the passage of constitutional amendments banning marriage for same-sex couples in 11 states, a New York State Supreme Court Justice ruled in February that it is unconstitutional to deny gay and lesbian couples marriage licenses in the Empire State. In a stunning and somewhat unexpected ruling, New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan said that the state’s Domestic Relations Law (DRL), which all but prohibits same-sex couples from marrying, is unconstitutional because it denies them equal protection and due process under the law.
“Simply put, marriage is viewed by society as the utmost expression of a couple’s commitment and love,” the ruling stated. “Similar to opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples are entitled to the same fundamental right to follow their hearts and publicly commit to a lifetime partnership with the person of their choosing. The recognition that this fundamental right applies equally to same-sex couples cannot legitimately be said to harm anyone.”
Ling-Cohan issued her ruling after five same-sex couples, represented by the Lambda Legal & Education Fund, filed suit last March following the denial of marriage licenses by New York City Clerk Victor Robles. The Lambda Legal suit is one of several currently pending in New York States and at a press conference at the group’s Lower Manhattan headquarters just hours after Ling-Cohan announced her decision, the plaintiff couples said the ruling validated their relationships.
“We are so excited about this,” said Curtis Woolbright, a Manhattan waiter and aspiring voiceover artist who challenged the DRL with his partner of three years, Daniel Reyes.. “We never thought we would win, but we are glad that our relationships and of our commitment to each other has been recognized.”
Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal’s lead attorney in what became known as the Hernandez case, said that the court’s ruling is the first step in achieving marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples in New York State.
“This is a historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers,” she said. “The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law.”
Ling-Cohan’s ruling came nearly five months after New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi said that the state’s pension and retirement benefits system would recognize same-sex marriages performed in Canada. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed suit in November when he announced that he would ask the city’s five pension systems to recognize the same-sex marriage and civil unions of city employees performed in Canada, Massachusetts and Vermont. But the mayor’s decision to appeal Ling-Cohan’s ruling directly to the New York State Court of Appeals, in spite of his public support of marriage for same-sex couples, infuriated many gay and lesbian activists.
Nevertheless, gay rights groups, including those with strong ties to Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines, said Ling-Cohan’s ruling dismisses any argument made against extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
“It is brilliant, moving and with compelling logic demolishes each and every argument raised against extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples,” Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), said in a prepared statement.
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the country’s largest statewide gay rights organization, agreed while joining scores of other groups and politicians in New York who expressed their disappointment at Bloomberg’s decision to appeal the ruling. Van Capelle added, however, that he remains optimistic that Ling-Cohan’s ruling would stand on appeal.
“While we are disappointed the mayor has chosen to appeal the ruling, we are happy that he is taking it to the court of appeals,” Van Capelle said.
Local residents and visitors shared Foreman and Van Capelle’s thoughts.
“We should have the same rights and laws to protect our relationships,” Cherry Grove resident Flo Moylett said.
Brendan Fay, co-chair of the Civil Marriage Trail Project, an organization that assists same-sex couples in New York who want to marry in either Massachusetts or Canada, agreed. He said that Ling-Cohan’s ruling was a watershed moment for the struggle for marriage for same-sex couples in the Empire State.
“For New York it is the most significant legal decision in our movement for marriage equality,” Fay said while waiting for the ferry in the Pines last Monday afternoon. “This is our current focus as the New York community prepares to enter pride month.”
Others, such as Pines resident Chrispin Sheridan, agreed.
“Humans cannot be denied oxygen and couples cannot be denied marriage,” he said.

Heading to the Chapel in the Midst of a Culture War
By Mike Lavers

Last Christmas, Anthony Brown and his partner, Gary Spino, made the long trek from their apartment in Manhattan’s West Village to Brown’s parents’ home in West Virginia. It was the first time that the couple had spent the holidays together since they met 16 years earlier. But on this day, known for the Yule tide spirit and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Brown packed a little something extra in his stocking: two wedding bands.
He had bought them two months earlier and he wanted to give Spiro a Christmas present he would never forget. That said; Brown brought him to a nearby lake on Christmas Eve. He got down on one knee and popped the all important question. Spiro – with tears streaming from his eyes – accepted Brown’s proposal.
“I thought it was something that I’d never have,” he said.
Spino and Brown are tying the knot in Montréal, where marriage for same-sex couples is legal, late next month in time to celebrate their anniversary. While gay and lesbian couples cannot marry in 49 states, it remains the social issue du jour and couples, such as Spino and Brown, are part of a growing trend of same-sex couples deciding to get married.
President George W. Bush and other conservatives in Washington and around the country have repeatedly called for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. These calls have only intensified after gay and lesbian couples began to marry last May in Massachusetts after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its landmark Goodridge ruling that said the state could not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Peter Stamberg and Paul Arferiat, architects who live in New York and the Fire Island Pines, took advantage of this new law and tied the knot last June in a small ceremony inside Somerville (Mass.) City Hall. Stamberg said politics played a big role in his decision to marry his partner of 29 years. But in the end, he said they both realized the magnitude of their decision.
“Our decision to get married was purely political,” Stamberg recalled. “The whole motivation was political, but we looked at each other during the wedding and began weeping. It was a very emotional thing.”
Brown, director of development of the Wedding Party, a group that supports marriage for same-sex couples, agreed. He admitted that marriage is not an easy thing to define. Nevertheless, he said that he chose to marry Spino, in part, because he wants to spend the rest of his life with him.
“We worked so hard to educate people about what that means,” Brown said. “But marriage just means that we love each other and are committed to stay with each other.”
Even 20-somethings, such as Tara Tarduno, 25, of Bay Shore, and her partner of nearly a year, Nicole Boccio, 22, said that they too would like to tie the knot. Like Brown, Tarduno defined marriage as “an expression of love” that nobody should be denied.”
“We want to share our lives together and function as a family unit,” Tarduno confidently said. “There is no reason we should be denied.”

Island View:
Marriage Equality for All
Volume 49, Issue 2
By Mike Lavers

Marriage is an institution that has been evolving since ancient times. At first it was a means to exchange property and later it became the means in which a man and a woman could procreate. Only at the turn of the last century, however, did marriage come to signify an expression of love and commitment.
Now it is 2005 and the evolution of marriage marches on. Gay and lesbian couples have been walking down the aisle in Massachusetts alongside their heterosexual counterparts for more than a year. Politicians, such as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and New Paltz (N.Y.) Mayor Jason West, have bravely issued marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in spite of legislation in their home states banning them from doing so. And judges, such as New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, have correctly rejected long-standing arguments that have barred same-sex couples access to this most symbolic of institutions.
This is progress in action. And so then, in a country that prides itself on the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is simply outrageous that President George W. Bush and his socially conservative base in Washington and around the country continue to harp upon the idea of a Constitutional amendment that would continue to relegate gays and lesbians to second class citizens.
Currently, 1,049 rights automatically granted to heterosexual couples upon marriage are denied to gays and lesbians because of the simple fact that the law forbids marriage for same-sex couples. These include things that most married people take for granted: visiting a sick spouse in the hospital, signing on as a beneficiary under a private health insurance policy, receiving retirements, being named as a beneficiary in their spouse’s will and the right to not testify against their husband or wife in a court of law.
Debate over marriage has sparked an ongoing culture war the likes of which have not been seen in this country since the 1960s as gay and lesbian activists continue to speak up and demand their rights. But it is important to remember, however, that the prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples affects real people, such as Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiat, who make their home in the Fire Island Pines. They have been together for 29 years and finally tied the knot last June in a small ceremony outside of Boston. Despite their commitment to each other, Stamberg and Aferiat and hundreds of other couples who make their homes on the island and generously contribute to its vibrancy and diversity are continually denied the rights and privileges afforded through marriage.
Naturally, there are many who may not care about marriage at all. And of course there are those who perhaps care about it too much. They are all certainly entitled to express their opinions within a democratic system. Yet, for politicians, such as Bush, who pride themselves on their so-called compassionate conservatism, it is time to show a bit of compassion and allow couples, such as Stamberg and Aferiat, the chance to marry.