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New York state celebrates first same-sex marriages

Jul 25, 2011, 9:19 a.m.

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wedding fever hit New York on Sunday, as hundreds of gay and lesbian couples married on the first day that same-sex marriage became legal in the state.

The marriages across New York, the nation's sixth, and largest, state to allow gay marriages prompted calls from activists and officials to repeal a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had pushed for same-sex marriage, officiated personally at the marriage of two men belonging to his City Hall inner circle on Sunday evening at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence.

"Today in this city and in this state, history takes an important step forward by allowing every person to participate," Bloomberg said as he married John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz, accompanied by their daughters at the podium.

"Therefore by the powers vested in me by the state of New York, I pronounce you both married."

City officials said a record-breaking 659 couples, all five boroughs combined, braved a summer heat wave and long lines to obtain their marriage licenses.

"I think that is going to cause huge ripples and waves that will move marriage equality much more quickly for the rest of the country," New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters.

Quinn, who said she had begun planning her own wedding with longtime partner Kim Catullo, called the marriages a triumph for human rights.

"Marriage equality is alive and well in every borough in New York City."

The day of marriages began in western New York, where two grandmothers became the state's first legally wed same-sex couple, one month after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law into effect.

Kitty Lambert, 54, and Cheryle Rudd, 53, from Buffalo, New York, were married just after midnight at Niagara Falls' State Park's Luna Island, with the traditional honeymoon capital Niagara Falls as a backdrop.

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 and their families and friends formed a line around the block to be married at Manhattan's marriage bureau.

The first to be wed were Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopelov, 85. The couple, who have been together for 23 years, emerged triumphant from the city clerk's office, and Kopelov, in a wheelchair, brandished their marriage certificate as a crowd of supporters cheered.

"I am breathless," Siegel said. "I am happy."

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.