Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gay Highland couple to wed in Amsterdam | recordonline.com

Gay Highland couple to wed in Amsterdam | recordonline.com

By Meghan E. Murphy
Times Herald-Record
Posted: July 28, 2009 - 2:00 AM

HIGHLAND — Four hundred years after sending an explorer to the Hudson Valley, the Dutch are looking to influence New York once again. The world's first country to recognize same-sex marriages is hosting five American-Dutch homosexual couples for a wedding Saturday as a way to promote equal rights in the United States.

Among the couples are Highland residents Stephan Hengst, 32, and Patrick Decker, 25. The Culinary Institute of America graduates are the founders of BigGayHudsonValley.com, a Web site highlighting issues and events in the region's gay community.

The couple initially discussed marrying in New York, Decker's home state, if the vows became legal. The state Assembly has already passed a gay marriage bill for which New York Gov. David Paterson has expressed support.

But when they saw that Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen had initiated a search for five Dutch-American couples, they decided to apply their unique backgrounds for a cause.

The couple will marry on a barge during the gay pride canal parade in Amsterdam. Because of a directive by Paterson last year, their marriage will be recognized in New York.

Hengst, who was born in a town near Amsterdam, said the wedding is both personal and political.

"We hope the attention raised as a part of our wedding helps people realize that it's one thing to tolerate and it's another thing to create equality," Hengst said.

The couple is encouraging state senators to pass the gay marriage bill, too. "The only thing holding equality back in our state is our state Senate," Hengst said.

Check BigGayHudsonValley.com for further details and updates.

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