Bloomberg News

New York to Open Gay-Marriage Era as Lottery Winners Celebrate

July 22, 2011

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Two grooms and two brides now adorn mugs, rubber duckies and snow globes in the souvenir shop of the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan as New York state prepares to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The city received 823 lottery entries from couples for 764 spots available for marriage at clerks’ offices July 24, said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. To accommodate all of the couples who applied, the city increased the number of slots in Manhattan to 459 from 400, he said.

Jo-Ann Shain and Mary Jo Kennedy of Brooklyn, who have been together 29 years, entered the 48-hour lottery after it was announced on July 19.

“At first we thought maybe it will be crazy, that it’ll be a zoo,” Shain, a 58-year old freelance medical editor, said in a telephone interview. “Then it occurred to us that we’ve waited so long, have fought so hard, it would be crazy not to be there on such a historic day.”

Shain said the couple plans to be married by a friend, who is a judge, outside the Manhattan clerk’s office as their 22- year old daughter, Aliya, looks on.

With 19.4 million residents, New York is the sixth and most populous U.S. state to grant same-sex couples the right to wed, a move championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and approved by the Legislature in Albany on June 24, the last day of its session. The victory for gay-rights advocates, which made headlines around the world, more than doubled the number of Americans free to marry either gender to 35 million.

Record Day

The couples to be wed July 24 will mark the city’s most in one day, Bloomberg said this week. The previous record was set on Valentine’s Day in 2003, when 621 couples tied the knot.

As of yesterday, 3,145 couples had preregistered for marriage licenses, said Mark Botnick, a spokesman for the mayor. Of that, about 2,200 are estimated to be same-sex couples, he said.

Clerks’ offices in all five boroughs, which are normally closed on Sunday, will open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at an additional estimated cost of $70,000, Botnick said. About 60 judges have volunteered to perform ceremonies, he said. The offices will remain open for two extra hours next week to handle the expected flood.

Three-Step Process

The Albany clerk’s office will provide licenses beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday to 10 couples, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda. Clerks in Binghamton, Brighton, Brookhaven, Buffalo, Greenburgh, Ithaca, Niagara, North Hempstead, Oneonta, Rochester, Syracuse and Woodstock will also hold Sunday office hours, the Manhattan-based gay advocacy organization said.

All couples -- gay or straight -- face a three-step process to get married. They must obtain from a clerk a $35 marriage license, for which they can apply online or on site. Judges will be on hand to grant judicial waivers eliminating the state’s 24- hour waiting period. Couples may then have a clerk perform a civil marriage for $25 or hold a religious ceremony at another location.

Same-sex marriages in New York will be recognized in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., where the practice is legal, as well as in Maryland and Rhode Island, according to the mayor’s office.

Debate began at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on July 20 on the proposed Respect for Marriage Act, which would let the federal government extend benefits such as Social Security and health-insurance coverage to same-sex married couples. It would end the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans recognition of those unions. The proposal wouldn’t require states to legalize same-sex marriages.

Rabbi to Preside

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of the Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village will marry people outside the Manhattan clerk’s office starting at 8:30 a.m. July 24. About 80 couples have signed up, with the final count depending on how many win the lottery, said Gabriel Blau, a congregation spokesman.

When Kleinbaum went to lobby for the marriage law’s passage in Albany, people pushed her and spat at her and said, “You are not a Jew,” Blau said.

Bloomberg plans to perform a marriage for John Feinblatt, his chief policy adviser, and Jonathan Mintz, the city’s commissioner for consumer affairs, at Gracie Mansion on July 24. The couple is the sole exception to the lottery.

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.

--With assistance from Sarah Frier in New York and Victoria Pelham in Washington. Editors: Mark Schoifet, Stephen Merelman

To contact the reporter on this story: Esmé E. Deprez in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at

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