New York begins marrying same-sex couples
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New York - Wedding fever hit New York on Sunday, as hundreds of gay and lesbian couples lined up to be married on the first day that same-sex marriage was legal in the state.
In western New York, two women, both grandmothers, became the first legally wed same-sex couple just after midnight, with the traditional honeymoon capital Niagara Falls as the backdrop for the event.
Kitty Lambert, 54, and Cheryle Rudd, 53, from Buffalo, New York, were married at Niagara Falls' State Park's Luna Island, near the US-Canadian border.
The women, with five grown children between them from previous marriages, were joined by several hundred friends, family, supporters and even a group of tourists for the first same-sex marriage since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the gay marriage law on June 24.
Lambert, an art gallery manager, choked up during the religious service, answering “Yes, yes, yes!” when asked if she was making the choice of her own free will.
“We're achieving that real American dream to be treated like everybody else and be protected under all those laws,” Lambert said later.
The women danced on stage after being married to pop star Lady Gaga's The Edge Of Glory.
In New York City, couples, their families and friends, formed a line around the block to be married at the Manhattan marriage bureau.
As freshly married couples emerged from the building, crowds of supporters congratulated them and asked that they brandish their marriage certificates.
Officials, expecting a rush of gay couples wanting to get married, initially set a lottery capping the number of marriages on Sunday to 764 couples but later accepted all 823 couples across all five city boroughs.
Douglas Robinson, 60, and Michael Elsasser, 56, said they were particularly happy because their two adopted sons, Zachary and Justin, were there to support them as they got married.
“The state recognises us as a real family now,” Robinson, who works at a bank, said, adding “even though we've always known we were a family”.
“The next step is to get full equal rights with the federal government,” Robinson said.
Speaking on ABC television's This Week With Christiane Amanpour programme, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he saw the legalisation of same-sex marriage in New York as boosting momentum for its passage in other states.
New York is the sixth and largest US state to allow gay marriage. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia also do so.
“It's going to grow very rapidly, partially because New York is such a bellwether and so visible and so when we do something a lot of people, they don't necessarily copy it, but they look to see whether it would be appropriate for them as well,” he said.
Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey have approved gay civil unions, and gay marriage is specifically banned in 39 states.
Civil liberties activists say New York's legalisation of same-sex marriage sends a message to the US Congress that it must repeal the federal Defence of Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
The Defence of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 by Democratic president Bill Clinton. US President Barack Obama has said he would support a bill meant to repeal the law.
The law prohibits same-sex couples from receiving marriage-based federal benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits, health benefits and the right to file taxes jointly.
Officials estimate legalising gay marriage would add $400-million to New York's strained economy over the next three years.
Bloomberg, who had pushed for same-sex marriage, is set to officiate at the marriage of two men who belong to his City Hall inner circle at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence, later on Sunday. - Reuters