Paul Rose, 65, and Vince Cardinal, 71, married Oct. 29 in Gloucester Township in a ceremony officiated by Mayor David Meyer. The wedding was the first same-sex marriage Meyer presided over and the first in the Gloucester Township Municipal Building.
The pair have been together for 42 years. They met in March 1971 at the old Allegro Bar on Spruce Street.
The two, who live in Sicklerville, N.J., said they were smitten with each other from the start.
“I remember I thought he was the handsomest man I had ever seen,” Rose said. “And I still think that.”
Cardinal added, “He was really cute and just had killer looks and he still does.”
The pair soon learned they had a lot in common in addition to their initial attraction: Rose worked as a high-school counselor for the School District of Philadelphia, where Cardinal was a high-school English teacher.
Rose worked at Furness and William Penn high schools for 30 years, retiring in 2002, while Cardinal retired from Ben Franklin High School in 1996.
They said they had long considered themselves engaged, although there was no official proposal.
“We were engaged for 42 years. We considered ourselves to be together since March 9 and have always considered that our anniversary,” Rose said. “We always wanted to get married. We just wanted a piece of paper that says the way we always felt.”
The pair applied for a domestic-partnership status in New Jersey when it was first implemented in 2004, but did not apply for a civil union when they became available in 2007.
“We wouldn’t do a civil union because it was like a second-class citizenship. We wanted to be married here in the state we lived in and were willing to wait for the New Jersey court’s decision,” Cardinal said.
A New Jersey Superior Court judge in September ruled that the civil-union system was unconstitutional and mandated marriage equality. Gov. Chris Christie appealed and requested a stay, but the New Jersey Supreme Court denied both requests. Same-sex marriage became legal Oct. 21.
Rose said the ruling was a long time in coming.
“We didn’t think it would happen in our lifetime. It never crossed our minds all those years ago. We always considered ourselves married, but never thought it would happen legally and publicly,” Rose said.
After the court ruled, Rose immediately emailed Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer asking him to officiate their wedding.
The mayor responded within 30 minutes and said he would be “delighted” to conduct the ceremony.
“After we were done filling out paperwork, Mayer turned to us and said, ‘OK, let’s go make history in this office,’” Rose said. “The mayor is a wonderful guy.”
Rose noted that the emotion of having their decades-long relationship finally recognized by their state was overwhelming.
“When they got to the vows, I hardly got through them because I was in tears. It was such an amazing thing to have happened at our age,” he said. “Marriage is something that is important in many ways and something people take for granted. I have nieces and nephews and it was never a second thought for them. People who are straight consider it a part of their lives. I don’t know if they can understand how important it is for us at our age and our years together to have this opportunity.”
The pair were married with close friends as witnesses.
Even after their 42 years together, Cardinal said taking their relationship to this next level has changed them as a couple.
“You feel different somehow after the ceremony,” Cardinal said. “Now when I go to the doctor’s, I can check off that I am married.”
“It did feel different even after the initial celebration and joy of the ceremony,” Rose added. “It is a feeling I cannot describe.”