By Claire Walla
As of Monday, July 25, New York is all systems go. Just 30 days after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the marriage equality act into legislation, same-sex couples can now officially apply for a marriage license and be legally wed in the state of New York.
While some gay couples living in New York have already tied the knot in one of the five U.S. states where same-sex unions are already legal, and though some couples will opt to wait a bit before they listen to the wedding bells ring, the clerks’ offices in East Hampton and Southampton Towns are already seeing requests for the paper contracts.
Glenda Hayes of the East Hampton Town Clerk’s office said their offices had received three requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples on Monday, July 25 and one request the following day. The numbers in Southampton Town are a bit higher. According to Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, the town issued 19 marriage licenses just this past Monday, in addition to one on Tuesday and another on Wednesday.
Though the office seems to have been inundated at the start of the week, Schermeyer explained, “that was really because we were gathering applications from the week before. We allowed people to begin filling out their paperwork early on,” she said, adding that all of the applications that were started last week could only officially be filed on Monday. So, in that sense, the number of licenses she issued was pretty on-target. “We kind of had an idea [of how many we would be issuing] based on the number of phone calls we had coming in,” she said.
Though any couple that obtains a marriage license through a New York clerk’s office is free to marry in any part of the state, Schermeyer explained that she herself officiated ceremonies for three of the gay couples who had requested marriage licenses this week.
For the Reverend Katrina Foster, pastor of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton, the first wedding with two men she will preside over will take place this Saturday, July 30. She added that her first wedding with two women will be held in October.
“Both of my churches are excited to host the weddings for both couples,” she said. In fact, the passage of the Marriage Equality Act came nearly two months after Incarnation Lutheran Church officially adopted a statement of public welcome to all “regardless of age, race, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation,” etc.
In light of the fact that the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center has barred its priests from presiding over gay ceremonies, Reverend Foster is working to get the word out to the community that she can do the job.
“I’ve done some outreach to gay-specific communities” to get the word out that there is a pastor in the local community who can officiate a Christian service for a gay couple, she said. “I was just at a professional meet-and-greet [put on by the East End Gay Organization] the other night and I said, ‘If you need someone to officiate, I’d be happy to speak to you.’”
While Pastor Foster said her office hasn’t exactly been inundated with requests from gay couples, she said she’s not exactly surprised. While it may be the case that some couples feel strapped for options, she said it’s also very likely that there are a number of gay couples who will choose not to marry.
“More and more, a lot of people [gay or straight] are choosing not to engage in a hetero-normative construct,” i.e. marriage, she said. While that may sound overly complicated, when it comes down to it, it’s really very simple. “They just want to be themselves,” she said. “However they choose to be.”