LOWER MANHATTAN — More than 8,000 same-sex couples have walked down the aisle since New York legalized their unions exactly one year ago, adding an estimated $259 million into the city's economy, officials announced Tuesday.
At least 8,200 same-sex couples have received their marriage licenses, and some 5,600 have had wedding ceremonies performed in the City Clerk’s Office since last July 24, when hundreds of men and women descended on Lower Manhattan to exchange vows that many never dreamed they would be able to exchange, according to a new NYC & Company study released Tuesday.
“Today… is marriage equality’s first anniversary,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference at the Manhattan City Clerk's office, where couples old and young had stood for hours waiting for their wedding ceremonies.
In addition to saying "I do," officials said the couples have also been a boon to the city’s economy, generating an estimated $259 million in economic activity through a combination of hotel room stays, invitation purchases, caterers and wedding favors, as well as 201,445 out-of-town guests.
“How much champagne was sold, I don’t know… but that’s where I helped consume,” joked Bloomberg, who said that government has "no business treating one group of couples different from another."
"It's a win for everybody,” he said.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who married her long-time partner, Kim Catullo, in May, said the year had been a whirlwind of “unadulterated joy" for so many couples.
"What you can’t quantify is just the joy that has happened in New York City in that building,” she said, adding that she hoped the numbers would help convince naysayers to support marriage equality elsewhere in the nation.
"I hope people who think that marriage equality was somehow going to cause the end of the world see it has done quite the opposite,” she said. “We’ve made something happen here that has made people and brought families together. And our job now is to make sure every American has that same opportunity.”
Following the press conference, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is set to marry his long-time love, Dan Hendrick, in Long Island City this Saturday, went across the street to the clerk’s office to pick up his own marriage license ahead of the ceremony.
After emerging with the paper in hand, the two, who have been together for more than 13 years, stood beaming.
“I never thought it would happen. I never ever thought this day would come. I never thought I would see my name on a marriage certificate,” said Van Bramer, getting emotional as he looked down at their names, side-by side.
He said the paper was "an affirmation that the city and the state that we live in, that I work in, even that I represent in the City Council, holds us in the same regard as every other citizen."
Hendrick said he was counting down the days until the wedding, and that family members had already begun to arrive.
“It’s amazing. You just can’t express in words,” he said. “It’s just giving me goosebumps to think about it. We’ve been together so long."
Hendrick noted the couple will be using local vendors, and said the event was also an important moment for the borough of Queens.
“We’ve had some high-profile marriages coming from Manhattan and some of the more liberal neighborhoods. And what’s great here is we’re getting in married in Queens,” he said. “It really just shows how much things are changing.”
The day was also one of first anniversaries for many, including John Feinblatt, the mayor's chief advisor for policy and strategic planning, whose marriage to city Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz Bloomberg presided over at Gracie Mansion last year.
Feinblatt said he and Mintz were planning to enjoy dinner together and catch a Broadway show, but had already started celebrating with daughters Georgia and Maeve.
“We got lots of anniversary cards from our kids this morning and big hugs saying, "Thank you for getting married,’" he said.
Couples marrying at the City Clerk’s office may choose to include their genders, but it is not required on the forms.
Of the 58,136 couples who chose to identify their genders, 7,184 were same-sex couples — including 3,898 men and 3.286 women, according to city figures. Approximately 75,000 couples married in the city over the past year.