Hundreds of Gay Couples Across New York Say Wedding Vows
New York. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples married across New York State on Sunday in a key milestone for advocates hoping to legalize gay marriage across the United States.
Niagara Falls, which shares the most powerful waterfalls in North America with a Canadian city of the same name, hosted the first marriage after the stroke of midnight with the cascades illuminated in gay pride rainbow colors as the backdrop.
“This wasn’t done with just the two of us,” Kitty Lambert, one of the newlyweds who married her long-time partner Cheryle Rudd, told The Buffalo News newspaper. “Every single person here played a part in getting this law passed.”
Cities and towns across the state planned to open offices to issue the state’s first marriage licenses to gay couples after New York legalized same-sex marriage on Saturday in a nail-biting vote.
It became the sixth US state, and the most populous, to legalize gay marriage.
In New York City alone — the largest city in the United States with eight million residents — 823 couples had registered in advance to get their marriage licenses on Sunday.
Expecting lines around the block, city officials initially set a lottery capping the number of marriages to 764 couples, but later decided to accept all 823 applicants, gay and straight alike.
It marks a unique day in the Big Apple’s history. The city’s previous records for number of marriages were 621 on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) 2003 and 610 unions on Aug. 8, 2008, because of the popularity of the date 08/08/08.
Two women, both grandmothers, became New York state’s first legally wed same-sex couple early on Sunday, with traditional honeymoon capital Niagara Falls as the backdrop for the historic event.
Lambert, 54, and Rudd, 53, were married just after the stroke of midnight on Saturday. The women, with five grown children between them from previous marriages, have been a couple for over a decade.
In honor of the first ceremony, the world-renowned water cascade was lit with rainbow-colored lights in a colossal, shimmering homage to the multicolored gay pride flag.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was to officiate one of the Sunday marriages at Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, between two male colleagues.
In addition to the record number of ceremonies, New York City is preparing for several weeks of festivities around an expected wave of same-sex marriages.
Hotels, restaurants, florists and other businesses are offering special deals and a giant wedding event is planned for the following Sunday in Central Park.
The ceremonies will come just two days after President Barack Obama announced that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the US armed forces will end on Sept. 20 as he certified that the military was ready to accept gay troops among its ranks.
The 1993 law required gay troops to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face expulsion from the forces, and an estimated 14,000 service members have been kicked out of the military under the rule.
Gay marriage is not legal under federal laws. The Defense of Marriage Act only recognizes marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
The law also allows states where gay marriage is not permitted to refuse to recognize a legally-sanctioned gay marriage from another state.