NEW YORK — Hundreds of gay couples dressed in formal suits and striped trousers, gowns and T-shirts recited vows in emotion-choked voices and triumphantly hoisted their long-awaited marriage certificates on Sunday as New York became the sixth state to recognize same-sex weddings.
Couples began saying “I do” at midnight from Niagara Falls to Long Island, though New York City became the sometimes raucous center of action by daybreak Sunday as couples waited for the chance to exchange vows at the city clerk’s office.
Thousands of protesters rallied in several cities around the state, a signal that the long fight for recognition may not be over just yet.
But a party atmosphere reigned in the lobby of the Manhattan clerk’s office, with cheers and applause breaking out whenever a couple was handed their white-and-blue wedding certificate.
Poignant signs of pent-up emotion were common from couples who had in some cases waited for years to wed.
New York’s adoption of legal same-sex marriage is viewed as a pivotal moment in the national gay rights movement and was expected to galvanize supporters and opponents alike. The state joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with Washington, D.C., when it voted last month to legalize gay marriage.
Protest rallies were planned in Manhattan, Buffalo, Rochester and Albany on Sunday afternoon. Gay marriage opponents unhappy that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage last month are calling for a statewide referendum on the issue.
Initially, New York City officials had projected that about 2,500 couples might show up at the city clerk’s offices hoping to get married on Sunday, but by the time a 48-hour lottery had drawn to a close on Thursday, 823 couples had signed up — 59 more than the city had planned to accommodate. The city said it would perform ceremonies for all 823.
Printed on 07/25/2011 as: Newlyweds partake in festivities in city clerk's office despite statewide protests calling for referendum vote