NY marks 1 year of gay marriage


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One year ago, New York became the largest and most influential state in which gay marriage is legal, raising supporters’ hopes that it would boost national momentum and pump money into the state with a flurry of weddings from Manhattan to Niagara Falls.

As the anniversary neared Tuesday, the law’s effects are noticeable if hard to measure.

Thousands of same-sex couples have wed across New York, but it’s unclear just how many, partly because marriage applicants aren’t required to identify themselves by gender. The wedding business is up, but some planners in New York City say it’s not booming.

And while President Obama announced support this year for gay marriage, no state has enacted a law allowing it since New York. And opponents note that North Carolina voters banned it.

California, which is almost double the size of New York, has been tied up in court over the issue since at least 2004, when the mayor of San Francisco ordered city clerks to issue licenses to gay couples and the subsequent popular vote in 2008 to ban same-sex marriages.

One thing is clear: legalizing gay marriage in the cultural, media, and business hub of New York City amped up the national spotlight on the issue.

“Do you know I still have people come up to me and congratulate me on my wedding?” said Carol Anastasio, who was among the first bouquet-waving, teary-eyed newlyweds when New York legalized gay marriage July 24, 2011. News crews swarmed Anastasio and Mimi Brown outside the city clerk’s office in Manhattan.

“I work in a public park so I’m outdoors a lot, and people will be walking a dog: ‘I thought that was you! I saw you in the paper! That’s great!’ ” said Anastasio, a city parks manager. “It’s really amazing how it just continues.”

New York inked its gay marriage law with a nail-biting state Senate vote on the night of June 24, 2011, after weeks of intensive lobbying by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Exactly one month later, New York became the sixth and largest state to allow gay weddings — more than doubling the number of same-sex couples eligible to wed.

“When it became a reality in New York, that’s when I think most Americans started to realize that this is something we’ll all be dealing with and started thinking about it seriously,” said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign. “The momentum from New York can’t be underestimated. After Massachusetts becoming the first state, nothing has had that influence.”

Rouse said that because of New York’s size and influence, people around the country had to think seriously about what legalization meant for them and their families.

Opponents note that despite legislative victories in states such as New York, voters have rejected gay marriage in all 32 states where it has been on the ballot.

“As it passes, people begin to realize that it’s more than two people standing at the altar, it literally alters all of society,” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council.

The change was more noticeable in the “honeymoon capital” of Niagara Falls, where the city clerk issued 459 marriage licenses in the year after passage, compared with 382 the previous year.

“That’s business we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Sally Fedell, whose Falls Wedding Chapel is one of several in town.

But proponents say the true impact goes beyond numbers. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who married her longtime partner Kim Catullo in May, said she’s been struck by the goodwill same-sex marriage has generated around the city, and not just among supporters.

“I go to places where you think based on the sign over the door: This place is conservative, they’re not going to want to see the ring, ask how it was, congratulate me,” she said. “Couldn’t be more wrong.”

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