Sunday, June 26, 2011

New York Prepares For Operation of Gay Marriage

Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the Marriage Equality Act into law was only the first step towards bringing gay marriage to fruition in New York. Now, the judiciary and bureaucracy throughout the state has to revise forms, set up procedures, and adjust for what is expected to be a mad dash for the altar for many long time committed gay couples who have been waiting years for the opportunity to get married.

Gays will be able to get legally married beginning July 24, 2011. In anticipation of that date, the judiciary is making additional judges available to preside over ceremonies.
Roughly 45,000 gay couples live in New York State, according to census estimates. No exact projection is available for how many will marry here, but officials are readying for thousands, especially in the first week.

“We are training our staff to be prepared for a very large number of people on the first day,” said Michael McSweeney, the New York City clerk, who oversees the marriage bureau. “We are going to be part of history.”

The city has struck an agreement to increase the number of state judges available to perform same-sex marriages. Their workload could swell; John Feinblatt, a top adviser to the mayor, said judges could be bombarded by requests to circumvent the 24-hour waiting period.

Over the next 30 days, state officials must also rewrite the marriage license application form and distribute it to the hundreds of city and town clerks. In Oneonta, a college town of about 14,000 people in central New York, the city clerk, James R. Koury, was expecting a surge in applications, especially on the first day.

“I think we’re probably going to have people coming that day, and I’m looking forward to it,” Mr. Koury said.

The marriage bill was approved in the State Senate late Friday night by a vote of 33 to 29. Four Republicans joined all but one Democrat in supporting the measure after a lengthy and often-heated campaign.

The state’s political establishment is watching closely to see what kind of backlash those four Republicans will face. Already, the National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group, is pledging to raise $2 million in a bid to defeat them.

New York is now the sixth and largest state to permit same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia.

After the passage of the legislation, the governor declared that New York had resumed its role as a “beacon for social justice.” Mr. Cuomo, the prime mover of the bill, is expected to march in the city’s gay pride parade on Sunday, which will likely be an emotional and overflowing gathering. His past appearance at the parade was attacked by his Republican opponent, Carl P. Paladino, during the campaign for governor last year. Mr. Paladino criticized Mr. Cuomo for taking his teenage daughter to march alongside him.

The governor is certain to be a major attraction this year in the procession, which sweeps down Fifth Avenue and across Greenwich Village. Attendance is typically 1.5 million; this year, organizers expect an additional 500,000 to 1 million people.
Those expected to take advantage of legalized gay marriage in New York include high profile Hollywood stars like Neil Patrick Harris.

Wedding vendors are hoping for a windfall as couples prepare for the big day.

Most importantly, the gay marriage bill will affect benefits rights, hospital visitation rights, and rights of survivorship in estates and financial transactions.

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