Braddock mayor Fetterman marries gay Pittsburgh couple
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, 9:21 a.m.
They exchanged borrowed rings. Guests sat in salvaged pews arranged under a chandelier of exposed wires and bulbs. Friends and family toasted the couple on a Braddock rooftop with the sprawling U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works as a backdrop. Their cake from Costco had a rainbow emblazoned across it.
John Kandray and Bill Gray of Regent Square became one of the latest gay couples to be married in Pennsylvania in defiance of a state law barring same-sex unions. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman conducted the ceremony in his home.
“On my end, it was a no-brainer,” Fetterman said of the marriage that appears to be Allegheny County's first. “I fundamentally believe that Gov. Corbett should tear down this law and replace it with marriage equality for all of Pennsylvania.”
Empowered by recent favorable U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the support of Pennsylvania's attorney general and perceived sea-change among Americans concerning gay equality, demand for marriage licenses among same-sex couples in the state shows no sign of slacking.
“It's about love and happiness, and I love him and it makes me happy, and that's my right,” Kandray said on Tuesday. “When you realize there's a law that's getting in the way of that or not allowing you to fully recognize that and have the benefits of other people in the exact same situation who just happen to be of opposite sexes, it needs to change, and I want to do everything I can for us to be fully recognized and for other people.”
Kandray, 40, a project manager at Ernst & Young, and Gray, 41, a nurse case manager at Forbes Regional Hospital, discussed marriage last year after dating for a decade. They decided to go to New York, where same-sex marriages are legal. On Thursday, however, they opted to try Montgomery County, where the register of wills has issued same-sex marriage licenses for two weeks, defying the law.
A friend told them Fetterman said he would marry a same-sex couple with proper documentation. Kandray called the mayor on Monday morning and, that evening, about 10 friends and family members witnessed the marriage.
“We feel like a committed couple in front of our family and friends and community, and we'll get to that point soon when it is legal,” Gray said.
Montgomery County issued 78 licenses to same-sex couples as of Monday, said Frank Custer, a county spokesman. The county issued 16 on Monday, the single highest daily total. Twenty-one of the licenses returned to the county for filing as marriages, Custer said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health sued the county to stop it from issuing licenses to gay couples. The state must file court briefs by Aug. 12. The county has until Aug. 19 to respond, Custer said.
“Pennsylvania's marriage law is clear. Any confusion or misunderstanding is being generated by public officials who refuse to follow the law,” Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett's Office of General Counsel, wrote in an email to the Tribune-Review. “Individual officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce or uphold. Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional.”
Frederiksen would not say whether those marrying the same-sex couples could face legal action.
Fetterman, a Harvard University graduate, is known for his unconventional style. His forearms bear tattoos of Braddock's ZIP code, 15104, and the dates of homicides that occurred since he took charge in 2005.
“I don't fundamentally believe that there are a lot of people in conservative quarters that want this law on the books,” said Fetterman, a Democrat.
The 1996 law passed with overwhelming majorities. A Franklin & Marshall College poll in May found that 53 percent of Pennsylvania registered voters would favor a constitutional amendment allowing gay marriage.
Just down Braddock Avenue from Fetterman's house, Veron Massey, 48, of North Braddock waited in the lobby of Milton's Top Notch Hair Designs.
“That's a stupid move to me,” Massey said of Fetterman marrying the couple. “In my opinion, it's wrong.”
Barber shop owner James Milton agreed. He said Fetterman is known for doing things to draw attention to himself and Braddock.
“If it's illegal here, then it's for attention. And I'm sure it went viral,” Milton said of the marriage. “I don't agree at all with it. I'm a Bible believer.”
Others support the marriage.
Dennis Turocy, an employee at Steel City Pawn Brokers, has gay nephews and said Pennsylvania's law needs a fresh look. Carrier Jeter, 36, of Homestead recently moved from Braddock. She told her 17-year-old son, who is gay, about the marriage.
“I think it's great,” Jeter said. “It kind of lets him know that there are other people out there like that.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Trade to Penguins caps frenetic period for winger Stempniak
- Keisel might be at end of Steelers career
- Kiski Area’s Kuhn draws unbeaten 3-time champ in PIAA Class AAA semifinals
- CCAC releases details of employee buyout offer
- JPMorgan whistle-blower gets $64M for mortgage fraud tips
- Spring training breakdown: Twins 6, Pirates 5
- NA graduate inspired to help raise funds
- PIAA Class AAA 126-pound semifinal stocked with WPIAL grapplers
- Ex-tow truck operator says Pittsburgh officer, city put him out of business
- Penguins’ leads evaporate in loss to Sharks
- Norwin’s Phipps earns spot in PIAA semifinals