Marriage Equality Bill

In 2011, when the Marriage Equality Bill passed in New York State, it was still considered a hot button issue. However 40 years ago when gay people were considered both mentally ill and criminal, some ministers were already actively supporting same sex couples to realize their wedding and committment dreams.

Reverend Florence and husband Rev. Irwin became Interfaith Ministers in the late 1960s, and attended seminary in Greenwich Village. After witnessing the Stonewall riots in 1969 and being appalled at the way gay people were treated, they began performing same-sex commitment ceremonies. They became advocates for the gay community, and their daughter Alison Caiola followed in their footsteps, becoming an Interfaith Minister over 15 years ago, founding the Rainbow Wedding Clergy.

Reverend Alison explained that before her mother’s passing in 2005 they had many talks about the fight for marriage equality, and Alison promised she would continue to work for the cause. When the bill passed last year, she organized a wedding celebration in her mother’s name at the Belvedere Castle in Central Park, a 10-hour event on July 31, 2011 called the NYC Marrython. Dozens of couples were finally legally married that day, a moving tribute to something Reverend Florence fought so long for, but didn’t live to see.

Both Alison and her parents had been performing ceremonies on Fire Island for years, so the next natural step was an event on the island as well. It was organized by Sal Piro, General Manager of The Ice Palace, called “Love & Marriage,” and took place the weekend of September 16-18, 2011 in Cherry Grove. Several Grovers tied the knot that day, including longtime CG residents Bobbie Scherffius and Victor Alfieri who had been together 60 years.

One reason Fire Island appeals to many couples planning a wedding is the proximity to NYC. Reverend Alison, who marries many couples there considers it like a second home.
“It’s like having a destination wedding without having to travel too far.”
She also suggests, if planning a wedding on FI, to use vendors who are local or know the island well.