Last Monday at a Puerto Rican restaurant, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer was presented with an engagement ring and a marriage proposal from his long-time partner.
Van Bramer, despite being caught off guard, said “yes” and is now scheduled to marry Sunnyside Gardens resident Dan Hendrick next summer. The pair have been in a relationship for more than 12 years.
“It did catch me by surprise even though we had talked about getting married for years,” Van Bramer said. “I was at a conference and marriage was not on my mind that day.”
With Van Bramer’s acceptance, he is likely to be the first openly gay elected official in Queens history to be married. Since July 24, 2011, gay marriage has been recognized by New York State.
Furthermore, Van Bramer is likely to be among the first gay elected officials across the state to tie the knot. Council Speaker Christine Quinn is expected to get married next year and a number of state officials have or are planning on doing so.
Hendrick, a popular Sunnyside figure, said he spoke with close friends and got their thoughts on how to propose marriage. “I ultimately did it in a restaurant. It was beautiful setting on the water. I picked up engagement rings for the two us, had some nice things to say and sprung the question.”
Van Bramer and Hendrick are planning to marry in late July or early August in Western Queens. Van Bramer and Hendrick said they aim to put together a guest list of about 200 people.
“My mother was in tears of joy when I told her the news,” Van Bramer said. Meanwhile, Hendrick said his family was so pleased that his 12-year-old niece has already volunteered to be a flower girl.
The location of Queens makes sense to Hendrick. “We are both Queens guys,” he said.
Hendrick, who hails from Warren Michigan, was a former editor-in-chief at the Queens Chronicle, has authored a book about Jamaica Bay and is currently producing a film about it. He is also the communications director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group.
Meanwhile, Van Bramer was baptized in St. Teresa’s Church in Woodside, grew up in the neighborhood and worked for several years as the chief external affairs officer at the Queens Public Library prior to being a councilman.
The two met in Kew Gardens in 1999 at a LGBT community fundraiser. At the time, Van Bramer was living in a studio in Woodside, while Hendrick was sharing a 3-brm house in Long Island City.
For Hendrick, he felt that now was the right time to get married. “We had talked about marriage for a long time but it was important for us to do it here [in New York] when it was legal,” he said. “Some of our friends went to Canada or Connecticut and we wanted to wait, where we could celebrate it properly.”
Van Bramer echoed Hendrick’s thoughts. “This has always been about love and commitment and we have always had that; however, now we have this terrific opportunity to celebrate that love and commitment in front of our families and friends and that will be powerful.”
The couple might adopt children one day. “I come from large family, where I am one of eight children,” Van Bramer said. “It is something we think about and talk about, but we are not there yet.”
“Right now we live busy lives,” Hendrick said.