Kottoff and Matey met at midnight at Equus Nightclub in Philadelphia on March 4, 1979 and, 34 years later, the two married on Oct. 5 at Poodle Beach in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Kottoff, who is from Long Island, was cruising in Equus after his upsetting outing to his family. Kotoff had plans to meet up with friends but when he looked across the room, he said he saw a man who took his breath away.
“I was looking around and there in the distance was this tall blond Adonis wearing red suspenders,” Kottoff said. “All of a sudden, it was like ‘West Side Story’ where Tony sees Maria in the distance and everything stops.”
After he spotted Matey, Kottoff said he was eager to make contact with him, but Matey didn’t seem to notice his advances.
“He was talking to everybody else in the bar and I couldn’t get his attention at all. At one point during the night, I decided to go home and I started walking down the steps and all of a sudden, someone put their arm on my shoulder and it was Mark and he asked where I was going,” Kottoff said.
The two began seeing one another and moved in together on Halloween 1980.
Matey, 56, who is from Ohio, currently works as a clinical coordinator for a behavioral-health organization, while Kottoff, 63, is the founder of The Handyman Company in Center City. They live in Philadelphia but have a vacation rental in Rehoboth Beach.
Kottoff said the pair had been content without a legal union, but said when marriage equality started to become a reality for many states, they started to think marriage might be in the cards for them.
“All of a sudden, we started noticing a change in the landscape that same-sex marriage was being made legal so we put it on our agenda,” Kottoff said. “But for us it was on the back burner because we are legal residents of Pennsylvania and that piece of paper doesn’t mean anything here.”
Three years ago, the two bought a rental house in Delaware and not long after, the state passed its civil-union bill.
But Kottoff said they wanted to wait for full marriage equality.
“Civil unions didn’t quite cut it for us. I wanted to call him my husband,” Kottoff said.
Delaware legalized marriage equality this past spring, and the pair decided to get married after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act and agencies like the IRS announced policy changes for married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.
“Not only was it symbolic but it would provide us with tangible benefits,” Kottoff said. “It was time to legalize our relationship. It was just a matter of picking a day. Because we have a second home in Rehoboth and spend a lot of time on Poodle Beach, it felt like the place we had to get married at. It has personal significance to us.
Kotoff said the two had a private, non-religious wedding that included the breaking of glass as a tribute to Kottoff’s Jewish upbringing, as well as a symbol of breaking barriers.
And, to pay homage to the first night they met, Kottoff wore Matey’s red suspenders.
“We just wanted to solemnize our relationship and make it about the two of us getting married.”