Philly Pride Presents hosted a mass wedding ceremony in front of Independence Hall June 8, officiated by out Court of Common Pleas Judges Dan Anders and Ann Butchart.
Twelve couples tied the knot, among them Philadelphia residents Anthony Purnell and Ray Robinson.
The couple, together for about nine years, had plans to marry in Maryland but decided to wait once they heard a Pennsylvania decision was forthcoming.
After the decision, they jumped at the opportunity to be part of the history-making weddings at Pride — which would mark their first time at the festivity.
“The idea of doing it at Pride and in front of all those people was exciting,” Purnell said. “We wanted to represent the pride we have. I had never been to Pride and neither had he so we decided to do it then; when the Pride coordinators contacted us, we rushed and got our marriage license.”
Purnell added that the experience was nerve-wrecking but exhilarating.
“I was the most nervous I had ever been in my life but we were both trying to hide our tears and emotions,” he said.
Sharing in that emotion was Elizabeth O’Brien and wife Nichole Prendergast.
“It wound up being much more emotional than expected,” O’Brien said.
The couple, together for 15 years, had a commitment ceremony 10 years ago in New Jersey, where they lived at the time, and later were joined in a civil union in the state.
Now residents of Philadelphia, they were considering having a legal marriage in New Jersey to celebrate their anniversary but were holding off in case Pennsylvania adopted marriage equality.
O’Brien said the significance of the wedding became apparent during the ceremony.
“We had gone into it thinking this was a personal, legal step in our relationship, having already married with our family and friends as witnesses years ago,” O’Brien said. “We realized the gravity of what was transpiring as we stood on Market Street with these other couples, 30 of our family and friends that joined us including our two young children as well as all the Pride parade supporters. It was so nice meeting some of the other couples, hearing their stories. We thought the vows that we exchanged strongly reflected our feelings towards each other.”
LaShauna Marie Thomas and April Lea Elissa-Kiah also married, after eight years together.
The couple, who met at Rosemont College, had a commitment ceremony in 2012 at the Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.
Thomas said she and her wife were honored to be part of the effort, which allowed the 12 couples to wed in a unique, yet still meaningful, way.
“We loved it,” she said. “Weddings can be stressful and it was something we wouldn’t have to stress about. It was nice to do something that was laidback. We had our family out there and it was nice to see everyone supporting us.”