By DON STINE
Asbury Park Deputy City Clerk Kiki Tomek (above; Facebook profile photo), who issued the first gay marriage license in the history of New Jersey, has retired from her job after 20 years.
In what has been called “guerrilla clerkship,” on March 8, 2004, and for the next three days, Tomek processed applications for marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Asbury Park.
Her action resulted in the first gay marriage in New Jersey. The action was short-lived, however, after the state Attorney General’s Office faxed a letter to city officials three hours later stating it would invalidate the marriage and the license, calling it a “hoax” played on the gay couple by city officials who performed the ceremony.
“It was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Tomek said about issuing the licenses. “I had really found no clear-cut legal obstacle to gay marriage but then the state stepped in.”
Ric Best and Louis Navarrete, both from Asbury Park, were married by Deputy Mayor James Bruno on March 8, 2004 in a ceremony in city hall, becoming the first gay couple to acquire a license and get married in New Jersey until the state nullified the union.
“I have no regrets about doing it…and look where we are now,” Tomek said.
Bruno said Tomek had always been a very loyal city employee and that her actions were “ground-breaking move” in the gay marriage movement.
“She really got the ball rolling. I think her actions really shined a light on the whole gay marriage issue. It got a lot of media attention and Asbury Park was the hub of attention that week, showing that is was a gay-friendly city,” he said.
“I think it was a gutsy move and the rest is history. Because of Kiki, we were way ahead of the game and I thought it would take another 40 years before things changed,” Bruno said.
And as far as gay marriage now being legal in New Jersey, Tomek said “it’s about time- it’s about time.”
Her daring move brought the gay marriage issue to the forefront in New Jersey and expanded the national debate on the issue.
Tomek, who is 62 and lives in Wall, has been on the job for 20 years and officially retired Jan 31. She previously worked for more than 10 years as a registrar in the emergency room at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
Her husband, Joseph “Joe Bop” Tomek, a well-known drummer, died in 2007. Her daughter, Sarah, is a 31-year-old professional drummer now on tour with Maggie Rose.
Tomek said she enjoyed her 20 years working for the city.
“The people were really great and I’ve formed many friendships, which is awesome. It was always an interesting job and I always met different people. I am going to miss it, not just yet but I am sure I will miss the people,” she said.
As far as the future, Tomek said she wants to spend time with her three rescued beagle dogs and visit her daughter more often in Nashville.
“Plus I just got to buy my first Asbury Park senior-citizen beach badge this year for $20 – and isn’t that wonderful,” she said.
Tomek may also travel a bit, with Costa Rico on her list.
“Whatever – I am a free spirit now,” she said.