First same-sex couple weds in Washington County Courthouse

May 27, 2014
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Nicole Elizabeth Furlong, left, and Amanda Raye Weinzen, exchange rings during their wedding ceremony conducted by Judge Katherine B. Emery Tuesday morning in Washington County Courthouse. Furlong and Weinzen were the first same-sex couple to be married at the courthouse. Order a Print
Image description
Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Newly married Nicole Elizabeth and Amanda Raye Furlong look at photos taken as they were exchanging vows before Judge Katherine B. Emery Tuesday morning in Washington County Courthouse. The two were the first same-sex couple to be married at the courthouse. Order a Print

Carrying a pink garment bag across one arm, Nicole Furlong picked up her marriage license, bounded up the marble steps of the Washington County Courthouse and checked in with the judge’s office.

It’s not unusual for members of a wedding party to be running a little late, considering all the preparations and anxieties the event entails.

That was the case Tuesday morning for Furlong and Amanda Raye Weinzen, who had to deal not only with gown, dress shirt and trousers, tie and rings, but also the weight of history.

Weinzen, 26, and Furlong, 23, of New Eagle, on Tuesday morning were about to become the first same-sex couple to be married in Washington County Courthouse.

They were also the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license at the courthouse the morning of May 21, the day after a federal judge struck down the Pennsylvania law prohibiting gay marriages. The courthouse was closed last Tuesday for election day when the ruling came down.

Judge Katherine B. Emery had to change only a word or two for Tuesday’s five-minue ceremony, substituting the term “spouse” instead of husband or wife in the marriage vows.

“Amanda, do you take Nicole to be your spouse, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish from this day forward, ’til death do you part?” the judge intoned in the cavernous, nearly empty red courtroom. Accompanying the bridal couple was a friend, Tammy Blankenship, who acted as photographer, and her young daughter.

Weinzen, who wore a wedding dress but carried no bouquet, and Furlong exchanged rings, and applause echoed as Emery concluded the cermony with the words never before heard in the courthouse, “By the authority invested in me by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I pronounce you partners for life.”

The women posed for photographs, accepted congratulations from a row of spectators waiting for their case to be heard, and headed in their wedding attire to the register of wills/clerk of orphan’s court office to have a raised seal imprinted on their marriage license, with Furlong carrying her spouse’s draped, ivory, cathedral-length train.

Furlong and Weinzen have known each other for seven years, and they’ve been a couple for a year and a half.

The new Amanda Furlong said she had only a few days to plan the details of her wedding, finding her gown online and making arrangements to pick it up in person.

“She picked my whole outfit,” Nicole Furlong said of her lavender shirt, purple tie and black slacks.

Amanda Furlong said she’s starting a job with UPMC-Magee hospital, while “Nicole stays home with our two kids,” a son, 5, and a daughter, 2.

Asked how it felt to make history at Washington County Courthouse, they both laughed.

Of Pennsylvania becoming the last state in the Northeast to legalize same-sex marriage, Amanda Furlong said, “It had to get changed by the end of the year or we were going to go somewhere else.”

They are planning a wedding celebration for August.

The civil ceremony for Weinzen and Furlong was one of three conducted Tuesday.

President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca officiated at the wedding of Alana Marie Vuksanovich and Nallely Berenice Quinones Bastida at noon, and Emery, judge of Orphan’s Court, later in the day repeated her historic “first” by pronouncing Alisa Marie Watters and Jessica Marie Murren partners for life at 4 p.m. nuptials.

While same-sex partners have applied for marriage licenses in Greene County, no marriage ceremonies have taken place at the courthouse in Waynesburg.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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