Wedding bells are gonna chime

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:48

Town and village halls get ready for same-sex marriages, By Pamela Chergotis WARWICK — Town and village halls across New York are getting ready for the historic change coming with the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage. “I really believe that in this country everyone is equal,” said Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, who as mayor is authorized to perform marriages. The new law “allows fairness,” he said. The state legislature passed the law last Friday, and it goes into effect on July 24. In the meantime, questions remain about some of the particulars. But all local officials contacted for this story agree there will be no problem implementing the law, which some religious and conservative groups oppose. “She will follow the law, no problem with that,” said Woodbury Supervisor John Burke of the town’s marriage officer, Desiree Potvin. Louisa Ingrassia, the Wallkill town clerk and president of the New York State Town Clerks Association for Orange and Sullivan County, added: “Everyone’s on board to uphold the Constitution.” A marriage officer who opposes same-sex marriage has the option of resigning but not of refusing, she said. “Our personal feelings have to be set aside to uphold the law,” Ingrassia said. But she hasn’t yet heard of a case where a marriage officer intends to resign because of the new legislation. Justices and mayors are automatically authorized to perform marriages, she said. Supervisors, town clerks and others may become marriage officers through an appointment by the town board. 'It’s all about the filing’ Like birth and death and other great changes in life, marriage involves paperwork. Newhard observed that when the mayor of New Paltz, Jason West, performed civil ceremonies at village hall in 2004, the clerk refused to file the paperwork with the state. “It’s all about the filing,” Newhard said. The current license includes a column for the bride and a column for the groom. Chester Town Clerk Betty Ann Reilly said the language will have to be adjusted to something like “person number 1 and person number 2.” Val Eisma, the Goshen town clerk, said clerks expect an e-mail from the state Department of Health as soon as its legal staff works out the particulars. Every New York marriage begins with a visit to municipal hall, whether the ceremony will be performed in a church or temple, town hall or family home. The couple must sign their marriage license application in the presence of the town clerk. Potvin stressed that every municipality has its own requirements. In Woodbury, couples who wish to marry must provide a certified copy of their birth certificates (the ones with the raised seal); a driver’s license or passport; and judgments of divorce for all previous marriages. Couples will receive a license valid for 60 days and, after the ceremony, their marriage certificate and marriage transcript. Potvin said much will remain unknown until the state does its part. Even with the change in dog licensing, a job that the state transferred to municipalities earlier this year, “things change monthly,” she said. Eisma, the Goshen clerk, says she expects many more applications for licenses once the new law goes into effect. When West was performing same-sex marriages in New Paltz, she received lots of calls asking if Goshen was doing the same, which indicates a pent-up demand. “And we’ll be happy to do it,” Eisma said. Goshen town hall sees about 100 requests for marriage licenses in a year. Eisma said that because Goshen is the county seat, many people assume it’s the place to go for both driver’s licenses and marriage licenses. And people who pick up their divorce papers from the county government center will go down the street to town hall to get a license for their next marriage, she said. Recognize out-of-state marriages One gray area is whether marriages performed in other states that have already legalized same-sex marriage will be recognized in New York. But most officials believe they will be. “It would be just like if my wife and I moved to another state,” said Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield. Eisma agreed. “I see no reason for them to marry again.” Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey is 25, two years younger than West when he started performing marriages in New Paltz. But he said he’s much more focused on the 2 percent tax cap, another new piece of legislation out of Albany that he said was eclipsed by the same-sex marriage law. He said he hasn’t had a chance to give the same-sex law much thought. “My job as mayor is to run the village and enforce the law,” he said. “It’s important that we live in a democracy. It’s a healthy exercise in democracy.”

I really believe that in this country everyone is equal. (The new law) allows fairness.” Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard

Did you know?
While court challenges in New York are all but certain, the state — unlike California — makes it difficult for the voters to repeal laws at the ballot box. Changing the law would require a constitutional convention, a long, drawn-out process.
New York, the nation’s third most populous state, will join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Massachusetts led the way, under court order, in 2004.
With the new law, the number of Americans in same-sex marriage states more than doubles. New York’s population of 19 million surpasses the combined total of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa, plus the District of Columbia.
Bills to legalize same-sex marriage failed in Maryland and Rhode Island.
Illinois, Hawaii and Delaware approved civil unions, joining five other states — California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — that provide gay couples with extensive marriage-like rights.
Adding those eight states to the six that allow gay marriage, more than 35 percent of Americans now live in states where gay couples can effectively attain the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Just 11 years ago, no states offered such rights.
For now, gay couples cannot get married in 44 states, and 30 of them have taken the extra step of passing constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Minnesota’s Republican-controlled Legislature has placed such an amendment on the 2012 ballot.
A lack of resources is part of the lament of the Baptists, ultra-orthodox Jewish leaders, Christians and Catholics who led much of the opposition. They were unable to hire lobbyists and lacked the support of a statewide elected official willing to use his or her position as a bully pulpit.
New York City estimates the new law will bring more than $180 million to the state in the next three years.
Source: The Associated Press