Today marks the day in New York when the new marriage equality law takes effect, giving same-sex couples the right to enter into civil marriages for the first time. There is no residency requirement to marry in the state, so in order to help couples from all locations who plan to marry in New York, The Advocate has compiled answers to some frequently asked questions based on information from the New York State Department of Health and the Office of the New York City Clerk.
When can we get married in New York?
The marriage equality law takes effect Sunday. Marriage bureau offices in New York City will be open outside normal weekday business hours, but only couples who entered a lottery are guaranteed service on that day. Clerks' offices in some other cities and towns will also be open on Sunday. Check with specific locations for more information. Otherwise, visit city and town clerks' offices beginning Monday. Offices in the five boroughs of New York City will offer extended hours during the week of July 25.
Where can we obtain a marriage license in New York?
Couples may apply for a marriage license in person at any city or town clerk's office in New York. In New York City, couples may begin the registration process online to save time for when they appear at the marriage bureau. Couples must appear in person to complete the application process and be issued the license. The marriage license is valid for 60 days (or 180 days for active military personnel) from the time it is received. A marriage ceremony must be performed before the license expires. What documentation do we need to bring?
Bring proof of age such as a birth certificate or naturalization record and proof of identity such as a driver's license or passport. Additional documentation may be necessary to prove divorce in the case of previous marriages, or for minors under the age of 18, who require written parental consent to marry. Consult with the marriage bureau or clerk's office in advance. Can the 24-hour waiting period be waived?
Yes, the mandatory 24-hour waiting period between the issuing of the marriage license and the ceremony can be circumvented with a judicial waiver. Judges will be present to consider and grant waivers in the five borough offices of New York City on Sunday, and judges will also be available in the Manhattan office throughout the following week. Couples already married elsewhere do not need to wait 24 hours if they can provide an original or certified copy of their current marriage certificate when applying for a license. Please note that couples married elsewhere already have their marriages recognized in New York.
Who can marry us in New York?
The marriage license entitles the holders to a civil marriage ceremony anywhere in New York, or a religious ceremony depending on whether the clergy member or religious institution recognizes marriage equality. Couples may have their ceremony performed in the city or town clerk's office that issued the license, or be married by any eligible officiant in the state before the license expires.
Can a city or town clerk refuse to marry us because of religious objections?
No, city and town clerk offices in New York must issue marriage licenses and officiate ceremonies for all couples. However, the Marriage Equality Act does provide exemptions for clergy members and religious institutions, and it also exempts benevolent organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, from renting their private facilities for celebrations. Check with the individual clergy member or religious institution if you wish to be married in a religious ceremony.
How much does it cost to get married in New York?
The fee for a marriage license in the City of New York is $35, payable by money order or credit card only. The fee for a marriage ceremony is $25. Outside New York City, the marriage license costs $40. Should we bring a witness for the marriage ceremony?
Yes, couples are advised to bring at least one competent adult witness age 18 or older. Although witnesses can often be found on short notice in the clerks' offices, it is a good idea to arrive prepared. What if we want to change our last names when we get married?
The marriage license application offers both spouses the option of keeping or changing their last names (surnames). Any changes elected will take effect legally after the marriage ceremony. First and middle names cannot be changed through the ceremony. Spouses may select the surname of either spouse; any former surname of either spouse; a name combining into a single surname all, or a part of, the pre-marriage surname, or any former surname, of each spouse; or a combination surname separated by a hyphen, provided that each part of the combination is the pre-marriage surname, or any former surname, of each of the spouses. Will our marriage in New York be recognized by our home state?
Some states recognize same-sex marriages performed in New York, but most states and the federal government, do not. States and jurisdictions that recognize the marriages include Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Delaware, Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey, and Hawaii (as of January 1, 2012) recognize the marriages as civil unions, and the Washington State recognizes the marriages as domestic partnerships. Civil unions and domestic partnerships may not carry the same status as marriage in those states.
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