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NYC announces marriage lottery ahead of demand for Sunday ceremonies

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
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New York City will hold a lottery for couples who want to get married on Sunday, the first day that the state’s Marriage Equality Act takes effect, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Tuesday.

Officials said more than 2,500 couples have already pre-registered for marriage licenses online, and that the city would not be able to meet the anticipated demand for marriage services on the first day in which gay couples can legally wed in New York state.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Clerk Michael McSweeney said in a joint statement that the lottery would be implemented “due to high demand for marriage services on Sunday, July 24, 2011.”

City officials have received 2,661 requests for marriage services on Sunday, including 1,728 from same-sex couples.

The lottery opened for entries at noon on Tuesday and was to close to entries at noon Thursday, with a separate drawing for each of the city’s five boroughs. Winners will be notified on Friday.

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“We’ve done our homework, and it’s clear that the number of couples who want to marry on Sunday is more than the City Clerk’s offices could possibly handle,” the mayor said.

“The last thing we want is for couples to wait on line for hours and hours, only to walk away upset on what was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said a total of 764 couples — both opposite and same-sex — will be chosen to wed in the City Clerk’s offices on Sunday: 400 in Manhattan; 112 in Brooklyn; 112 in Queens; 98 in the Bronx and 42 on Staten Island.

Applications for the lottery will be open from 12 p.m. today until 12 p.m. Thursday. Winners will be notified by Friday at noon.

On Sunday, judges will perform three steps all at once: granting a marriage license, granting (on a case-by-case basis) a waiver of the waiting period, and performing a ceremony.

For couples who do not land a spot through the lottery, the city clerk’s office will continue expanded operations next week, bringing in extra judges and staff and staying open two extra hours each day to handle the anticipated demand.

Starting Monday, those weddings will be performed first-come, first-served, but Bloomberg said he doesn’t expect people to be camping out overnight to get married.

Also on Sunday, Bloomberg himself will officiate a same-sex ceremony at Gracie Mansion between two city officials, Consumer Aaffairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, and his partner of 14 years, Chief Policy Adviser John Feinblatt.

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