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A Marriage Made In NY - But Made Legal In Amsterdam

By Susan Barnett


Hudson Valley, NY –

Getting married is stressful. A psychological study puts it among the top ten most stressful life events. Imagine the added stress of a last minute opportunity to get married overseas. Then add to that the complication that it's not legal to get married where you live, making your wedding a political statement as well as a personal decision. That's the situation facing Stephan Hengst and Patrick Decker, a gay couple who, so far, are still laughing and taking it in stride. Hudson Valley bureau chief Susan Barnett reports.

Depending on how you look at it, it's a fairy tale or it's a nightmare. Stephan Hengst and Patrick Decker of Dutchess County are pulling their wedding reception together at the last minute. They've talked about getting married, but the founders of the website BigGayHudsonValley.com who are equal marriage rights advocates had said they'd wait until NYS made it legal. Then Stephan says they heard about a contest.

They went home, they looked, and they found Ido.IAmsterdam. The guidelines were almost ridiculous. One partner had to be Dutch. One had to be from NY. What were the odds? But Hegnst was born in Holland. After applications, essays and phone calls, they found out they'd been chosen.

So they're getting married August first in a massive gay pride event, taking their vows on a wedding barge in Amsterdam, picking up their rings, writing their vows, and pulling together a reception for their friends at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie...the former estate of Samuel Morse. Their friend Ken Snodgrass is executive director and he says the fact that Stephan, Patrick and many of their friends are chefs makes this pretty simple.

Stephan says he hopes their wedding, which many of their friends found out about when there was a picture of them in the NY Times at the Gay Pride Parade, helps push the NY Senate to finally approve an equal marriage rights bill that's already passed the Assembly.

As Stephan speaks, Patrick picks a piece of lint off his shoulder. It's the kind of intimate gesture that speaks volumes. But the romantic proposal kind of went by the wayside in the whirlwind surrounding the Amsterdam opportunity.

Not everyone's been supportive.