Less than a week after New York State approved same-sex marriage, gay marriage advocates gathered at Bethpage State Park Wednesday to announce that Carlyle on the Green will host free weddings for same-sex couples.
The “massive wedding ceremony” will be held on July 26—the first day gay couples can get married—and everything from catering to decorating the venue will be free, said Steve Carl, owner of Carlyle on the Green.
“To do it here at Bethpage is an honor to us and to everyone in the state of New York,” Carl said during Wednesday’s press conference.
On June 24, the New York State Senate approved the heated same-sex marriage bill by a vote of 33-29, a week after the bill passed in the state Assembly. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill shortly afterward, making it legal for same-sex couples to get married after a 30-day moratorium.
Gay couples across the state celebrated in unison after the vote was announced late Friday night. On Long Island, dozens of people at the GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender] Community Center in Bay Shore hugged and kissed one another after years of fighting for marriage equality.
“They’re going to have the opportunity of a lifetime to be here on Carlyle and have a wedding that won’t hurt their pocket books,” said David Kilmnick, CEO of the Center, adding that straight couples can get married for free as well.
Kilmnick was joined by Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), who voted “yes” for the bill, and called the law “a very historic legislation.” The press conference featured a 4-foot-tall cake decorated with white flowers and silver beads, as well as two small cakes scattered with silver crystals.
Smith said he “wrestled” with the issue about five years ago, but decided to push for marriage equality after taking a look at the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights issues, including interracial marriage.
“Everybody thought the world was going to fall apart when all three of those things happened, and we’re doing fine,” Smith said. “I think right now they deserve to have the rights that everybody else has.”
The GLBT Community Center will oversee the event, and Kilmnick said he expects thousands of people to get married at Bethpage State Park. Ceremonies will take place outside or inside depending on the weather, Carl said.
Those interested can sign up through the website Long Island Gay Weddings, and the GLBT community Center will communicate with couples through the site.
Couples can apply for a marriage license at any Town Clerk office in New York State, said North Hempstead Town Clerk Leslie Gross. The state has yet to issue applications, but Gross said she will make that information available as soon as her office receives the paperwork. After couples sign up, there’s a 24-hour waiting period before they can have their ceremony.
Although none of Long Island’s nine senators voted in support of the bill, Kilminck said that won’t stop them from celebrating together when couples can finally get married.
“That’s not going to spoil the celebration we’re having on July 26,” he said. “In fact they’re going to probably regret for the rest of their lives that they were not on the right side of history…It will end the years of waiting that we all have had to marry the person that we love.”