New York marks one year of gay marriage

July 23, 2012

New York became the largest and most influential state to legalize gay marriage one year ago, 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 nears 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.

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.

The new law was ushered in with a whirlwind of weddings that started in the minutes after midnight from Niagara Falls to New York City.

“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.

Even as Obama announced his support in May, North Carolina voters that week approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. State lawmakers in Maryland and Washington passed same-sex marriage laws, but voters will have a final say in November over whether the measures will take effect.

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