Although June is the traditional month for nuptials, the end of July is expected to see a rush to the altar in New York as gay couples celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriages in the Empire State.
Wedding plans are blooming, now that New York has become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Couples who had talked about going out of state to wed changed their plans. Wedding planners anticipate picking up business. And churches that accept gay unions say they're looking forward to hosting ceremonies.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed same-sex marriage into law late Friday, shortly after the Senate approved the measure for the nation’s third most-populous state, with 19.4 million residents.
New York joined Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut as states that issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. New York and Maryland recognize such marriages from other jurisdictions.
The Empire State’s new law will take effect in 30 days.
The Rev. Joseph Tolton, a minister at the Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church in Harlem, said Saturday that he expects to be busy performing ceremonies after the law takes effect next month. The Pentecostal church has a large gay congregation.
Waves of gay couples rushed Saturday to make wedding plans, and the annual NYC Pride March in New York City today is expected to seem like an enormous roving engagement party.
"We expect an extra 500,000 to 1 million as a result of passage," said Britton Hogge, media director for Heritage of Pride, which organizes the event. Police usually estimate the crowd at about 1.5 million people, he said.
On Saturday, engagement rings were offered and accepted, and champagne corks popped to kick off wedding plans that are likely to add an estimated $284 million to the state's economy, according to a report from the Independent Democratic Conference.
More than 21,000 gay and lesbian couples from New York are expected to marry within the first three years and nearly 42,000 gay and lesbian couples from out of state will travel to New York for a "destination wedding," the report said.
"Peter, will you marry me?" asked Dan Gallagher, 46, who dropped down on one knee as he finished running through Central Park on Saturday with his partner of 14 years, Peter Shearer, an emergency medicine physician. The couple, who are raising a 4-year-old son, are thrilled to marry in their home state.
Tim Ford, 45, an actor engaged to marry his partner of 18 years, Michael Beltran, 44, an administrator for a law firm, in October, said, "It makes you feel like we're equal, that we can celebrate with friends in New York and not have it be, in some people's eyes, not recognized.
"The wedding planning stress is already started," he said.
Before the ink dried on the newly signed law, they changed their Facebook status from domestic partnership to engaged, sparking a flurry of congratulations, Beltran said.
"We waited for this day for a long time. It's very emotional," he said, choking back tears.
Both men were raised Catholic, and Beltran serves as a group song leader at weekly Mass, but they reluctantly will not be married in the Catholic Church, which opposed the gay marriage bill. The new law exempts churches and religious institutions from having to perform gay marriages.
"It doesn't bother me, but it bothers Michael a little more," said Ford, who plans instead to be married by a friend who is an ordained a minister.
Seemingly instantaneous engagements, planned for years but long awaiting the state's consent, were celebrated around the state, including in the state capital Albany where the proposed law was mired for days in a fight over the exemptions.
"I feel like a first-class citizen, a first-class New Yorker, for the first time in my life," said Jim Reda of Brooklyn, outside the Senate chamber with his partner of eight years. "We will be married by the end of the year. I can't believe I'm actually saying that."
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