On Monday, the day after the first gay marriages were performed in New York state (ever), a friend and I went to the City Clerk’s/Marriage Bureau Office to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s old news by now, (see my June 16th post before the fact and June 24th post, after), but New York voted to legalize same sex marriage on June 24th, meaning that the law went into effect 30 days later, this past Sunday.
As the Huffington Post reported, in light of the number of couples the state projected would want to wed on Sunday, they devised a Marriage Lottery, whereby couples could sign up for slots within the different boroughs of New York, in order to make sure all could be accommodated. In the end, 823 couples signed up, the majority being same-sex.
The NYC City Clerk’s Office (along with some others across the state) waived the 24-hour waiting period between securing a marriage license and getting married for the day, opened on a Sunday and extended its hours until 6:30 p.m. every day this upcoming week (business hours are usually M-F 8:30-3:45).
However, when my friend and I got there around 2 in the afternoon on Monday, only about 4 or 5 couples were walking down the halls, most of whom appeared to be composed of one man and one woman. We hadn’t passed any protestors outside either. We asked the Marriage Clerk, a worker from City Store (the City Clerk’s gift shop), reporters and others where all the people were. No one else knew either.
The answer we got time and again was that business was much slower than the staff had expected. They’re hoping that the reason is because it’s a Monday and so people have work, and that Friday, usually their busiest day, will be extra busy this week. One worker expressed concern over whether she would be required to work until 6 even though no one was coming in, or if they’d change their hours back to normal.
Although business was slow, much to everyone’s surprise, we still observed about 10-15 same-sex couples enter the building over the course of 2 hours. A gay, middle-aged couple who had just gotten married told us that they had only come to get a marriage license, but once they were there they figured they might as well go through with the ceremony too. In order to bypass the waiting period, they had to go across the street to the judges’ offices and ask for a waiver.
However, the process was much easier than they expected, since all they had to do was fill out paperwork, with their reason for wanting the waiver being that they each worked during the week. They quickly received it, came back across the street, and tied the knot!
We also saw a woman handing out surveys to couples as they left the chapels, both straight and gay. She explained to us that these surveys were sponsored by a New York tourism company who is collecting data on how gay marriage is affecting the economy, in the hopes of influencing other states on the gay marriage issue. She, too, was disappointed in the number of people getting married, since she has to collect surveys from over 1,000 couples, and had expected Monday to be a busier day for the Marriage Bureau.
What do you think? Why is it that gay marriage isn’t booming as much as many expected it would? Does the lack of people taking advantage of their rights minimize the importance of the legislation which enabled it? What about the phrase “If you don’t exercise your Civil Rights, you lose them?”
Mayor Bloomberg officiated at his third wedding ceremony ever this past Sunday, too- at the wedding of John Feinblatt, Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, held at Gracie Mansion. Read this Politickerny article for Mayor Bloomberg’s full prepared remarks, which are quite sweet and funny.