For Argyle clerk a first

Sunday had something of a dual quality to it for Argyle Town Clerk Gianna Cross.

On one hand it was a historic day for the state, for the town and for the office and on the other hand, no big deal.

“If Oct. 1 fell on a Saturday I’d be in here to issue doe (hunting) permits. I open at different times to serve the public,” the ten-year veteran clerk said Monday.

But Sunday’s opening became much more than unusual office hours when Cross received an email from Amsterdam inquiring about the reason she decided to open the doors at all July 24 – it was a request from a same sex couple for a marriage license.

“They came in around 1:30 p.m., we opened at noon and we were there until after 4 p.m.,” Cross said. The email asked about fees, the process and if it could be done that day.

Not quite two hours later the couple was in her office.

“They weren’t doing it for notoriety, they were just doing what they’re now entitled to do by law,” Cross said.

For her, the idea was just to have one place in Washington County that could provide the opportunity.

“It wasn’t about the fame we just wanted to say ‘hey we’re a part of it’,” Cross said. “It’s pretty neat to be a part of that,” Cross said. 

Like clerks in many of the towns across Washington County Cross said she received no same sex marriage inquiries heading into the weekend. She just decided to open because no one else was likely to do so, she said.

“We’re all just very proud to be a part of history,” Cross said.

‘We’ consists of Judges Vito Caruso of the Fourth Judicial District, Judge John Hall from Lake George, Ann Marie Safford a local non-denominational minister who performed the ceremony and Cross.

Caruso told Cross the couple, Shannon Hughes and Kim Charboneau, were the first to marry in the judicial district, which encompasses 11 counties, 164 towns and nine cities from Schenectady/Amsterdam/Johnstown area up to Clinton County and includes about 840,000 people.

Cross said she averages between 40 and 50 marriage licenses each year. “They were No. 20,” she said. 

As with the hundreds of othe same sex couples across the state, the couple needed a waiver for the 24-hour waiting period, Cross said. What few knew, she said, was the waiting period is fairly commonly waived, particularly in the case of military personnel and anyone can apply to receive the waiver.

With the waiver, Judge Hall asked the couple a few questions to ensure this was not some kind of publicity stunt and then Safford performed the ceremony.

Cross said she had not taken any complaints on the move, but had received numerous compliments and congratulations for offering hours on the historic day.

As the holder of a Paralegal degree, Cross said she just followed the law of the land. “I didn’t do this to upset anyone…Justice is blind. I believe that’s what I did, gave everybody a fair opportunity under the law,” Cross said. 

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