Braddock mayor receives more requests to officiate same-sex marriages


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John Fetterman, wedding officiant, is in demand.

After the Braddock mayor performed the first same-sex wedding ceremony in Allegheny County last week, the calls started coming in.

He joined a fourth couple, Elizabeth Pantalone and Holly Fromlak of Garfield, Monday night, and was scheduled to marry another pair Wednesday.

Most of the ceremonies have been performed in Mr. Fetterman's Braddock home -- a former car dealership he and his wife, Gisele, are renovating. The kitchen area is finished, but the cavernous room with huge windows and exposed-brick walls has just a few chairs and two mismatched pews.

"It's a little unorthodox space for a wedding," he said.

Pennsylvania is one of 35 states that ban same-sex marriages, but the register of wills in Montgomery County, D. Bruce Hanes, began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples three weeks ago. Mr. Fetterman married Bill Gray and John Kandray of Swissvale last week, and the requests have been rolling in since then.

Mr. Fetterman said he was concerned about the potential legal ramifications of performing the ceremonies in the Nyia Page Community Center, which is owned by Braddock Redux, a nonprofit organization. He said just the fact that he was concerned about damaging the nonprofit status of Braddock Redux is a "travesty."

On Monday, about 30 people gathered in the Fettermans' home for the marriage of Ms. Pantalone, 25, and Ms. Fromlak, 30.

"We also do bar mitzvahs and birthday parties," Mr. Fetterman quipped as his children, Karl and Grace, ran around the room.

Mr. Kandray and Mr. Gray were also in attendance. Mr. Kandray said he and Mr. Gray have become close with the Fettermans since their ceremony, which drew significant media attention.

Ms. Pantalone said she proposed to Ms. Fromlak nearly three years ago. They considered marrying in New York or Washington, D.C., but decided they "didn't want to go somewhere and have a really happy occasion" that would be void "as soon as we crossed state lines," Ms. Pantalone said.

She said she knows they might not see the same marriage benefits as a heterosexual couple would, but that wasn't a deterrent.

"We're just really happy, and hopefully things will work out," Ms. Pantalone said.

On Monday, shortly after 9 p.m., Mr. Fetterman gathered Ms. Pantalone, Ms. Fromlak and their friends and family in the center of the room and led a short ceremony. He first asked if anyone wanted to say anything about the couple.

Ms. Pantalone's father, Robert Pantalone, said his daughter "has always kind of been a little bit of a trailblazer." He said he wants Ms. Pantalone to be happy and "loves Holly to death."

Mr. Fetterman then asked if the couple wanted to say anything to each other.

"I'm just really proud of us," said Ms. Fromlak, wearing tailored gray pants and a black button-down shirt.

Ms. Pantalone, in a knee-length white dress and a black cropped cardigan, called Ms. Fromlak her "partner in crime."

"That's a great segue," Mr. Fetterman said. "Let's make it official."

The couple repeated short vows and exchanged rings.

"You may now kiss your spouse," Mr. Fetterman declared, to cheers from the crowd.

neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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