Carey Jenkins, left, and partner Michele Pendolino of Manchester Township, exchange marriage vows during a group wedding by Mayor C. Kim Bracey at Equality
Carey Jenkins, left, and partner Michele Pendolino of Manchester Township, exchange marriage vows during a group wedding by Mayor C. Kim Bracey at Equality Fest on Sunday. Right, Addyson Hill, 2, holds the hands of her grandmothers, Jenkins and Pendolino, during the ceremony. See a video from the event at yorkdispatch.com. (John A. Pavoncello — jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com)

For Melissa Garrett and Jacqueline Reed, getting married at Equality Fest in York City was about more than sharing health care benefits and owning joint property.

"We wanted to celebrate our love," Garrett said.

The West York residents, ages 49 and 48, respectively, have been together for 22 years and exchanged rings Sunday at a wedding and vow renewal with eight other couples during the event at Cherry Lane Park. Although organizers say about 600 people were in the park for the ceremony, the two said they only focused on each other.

"I was just in that moment," Garrett said.

The couple urged friends Tina Heath and Barb Voight, both 54 and of Columbia, Lancaster County, to get married at the group wedding. They've been together 35 years.

"Everyone's telling us it's about time," Voight said.

Celebration: Garrett and Reed said they obtained their marriage license six weeks ago, about a month after a U.S. district judge's ruling struck down Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban.

On May 21, the day after the ruling, poet Carla Christopher came up with the idea to have Equality Fest, a celebration of love and human rights, she said.

Christopher, co-chair of the Equality Fest board, said many different organizations came together to help raise money and plan the event, which included several musical acts.

She wed partner T.L. Waid during what she said was a "beautiful" ceremony with the other couples.


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"They were so happy to be part of that," Christopher said. "I was just really honored that they gave us that trust."

More than 1,000 people attended the first of what will be an annual event, she said.

"We're already planning for 2015," Christopher said.

Support: David Smith and Steve Billet said they came to the event to support their community.

"I think it was very cool that these people really got to engage their celebration of life and love together," Billet, 44, said of Sunday's wedding.

The York City residents have been together for four years and thought about marriage, although they'd like a more intimate setting, said Smith, 51.

"After today, we might even facilitate into doing it quicker," he said.

The couple moved to York from Rehoboth Beach, Dela., in November and opened up Ironic, a city art gallery, in April, Smith said.

"York has been very open to us," he said.

Community: Javier Cotal of York City said he enjoyed listening to the live music and mingling at the event.

"It's awesome for a first year," he said.

Cotal, 37, said he hopes events like Equality Fest can help York's gay community gather in environments besides clubs and parties.

"And eventually I will meet my Mr. Right, or at least I hope," he said.

Aurora Sterling, 40, of Schuylkill County took part in a drag performance with Lux Night Lounge at the event.

She said she thought Equality Fest was "amazing."

"I think it's about time that it happened in York," she said.

Sterling performs at Lux in North York every month and keeps coming back because of the people, she said.

"I think the people here are so friendly," she said. "They have a great gay community here."

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.