Gay couple to marry as law takes effect

(AP Photo)

July 13, 2011 1:29:15 PM PDT
At least two same-sex couples plan to exchange vows moments after midnight as soon as New York's gay marriage law takes effect, getting a jump on a potential crush of couples hoping to wed around the state that day.

Gay marriage becomes legal in the state on July 24, a Sunday. Clerks' offices in New York City and some other municipalities will open especially to accommodate couples seeking licenses. But two couples said Wednesday that officials in western New York and the Hudson Valley are clearing logistical hurdles to allow them to quickly seize a long-awaited opportunity.

"We're going to be right on the dot. I hope we're the first," said Linda Mussman of Hudson, who will marry her partner of 35 years, Claudia Bruce. "When the clock turns, we're going to be at the `I do."'

Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd of Buffalo plan to wed around the same time July 24 in a ceremony in the park alongside Niagara Falls. Lambert, 54, said she has been together with Rudd, 53, for over a decade and they had long been fighting for the right to marry.

"I told Cheryle way back that when this went through we won't wait a moment longer than we have to," Lambert said.

Same-sex couples who wish to wed right after the stroke of midnight in New York face two hurdles. Local officials must be willing to issue the license that night, and a judge must agree to waive the mandatory 24-hour waiting period between the issuance of the license and the ceremony.

Mussman and Lambert said judges and other local officials in their communities have agreed to help. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster will perform the ceremony for Lambert and Rudd; he said he was "honored" to be asked.

Mussman, 64, and Bruce, 65, will wed at Time & Space Limited, an arts and culture center they co-direct in Hudson, about 100 miles north of New York City. Mussman called it a "historic opportunity."

New York will become the sixth and largest state with legal gay marriage exactly a month after the legislation was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers. New York on Wednesday was sending new marriage license forms and information to local governments.

The state health department on Wednesday also posted basic information about the new law on its website. State officials said the 24-hour waiting period will not be required for couples previously married in other jurisdictions who wish to have another marriage ceremony in New York.

New York City officials announced last week that clerks' offices in all five boroughs will be open for a full day July 24 and that volunteer judges will be available to perform ceremonies and to review requests to waive the waiting period.

Niagara Falls, Binghamton, Syracuse and North Hempstead on Long Island are among the other municipalities that plan to open clerks' offices that Sunday.

More same-sex weddings are expected the following Monday and Tuesday among couples who did not have access to a city clerk's office open on Sunday or to a waiver. ------------