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Gay Couples Won't Let Lottery Limbo Stop Their Weddings

By DNAinfo Staff on July 19, 2011 7:20pm

By Meredith Hoffman and Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Staff

UPPER WEST SIDE — Huddled on the couch in their Amsterdam Avenue apartment, Kawane Harris and Jeanette Coleman eagerly clutched their lottery ticket — which they hope will allow them to be among those picked to be legally wed when the city opens the doors to gay marriage Sunday.

Harris and Coleman are among the thousands of same-sex couples who were put on notice by the city Tuesday that their plans to be among the first to legally wed in New York State may be put on hold.

"My stomach is in knots ... Am I going to be one of the 400 chosen people?" asked Coleman, 41, who learned of the lottery when a friend texted her the news. "Straight people don't have to wait...We're being limited."

To cope with unprecedented interest, officials said they have had to limit the vows to 764 lucky couples from around the city — only 400 of whom are allowed to be registered in Manhattan — whose names will be chosen via lottery. Harris' and Coleman's lottery ticket is a single sheet printed out from the City Clerk's website with their names and the date they applied for a license.

The couple won't find out until Friday — a nail-biting two days before their scheduled wedding ceremony — whether their application has been selected from the lottery. If they're selected, they'll get a phone call or email from the city.

The registration remains open until Thursday and the city hasn't released the number of applicants who have registered so far.

Still, Coleman said that even if they're not picked, nothing will stop her from donning her wedding dress and heading to Foley Square Sunday, where she and Harris, 35, will say their vows in front of over 100 people. 

"We already feel married," said Coleman, adding that the couple had a church marriage ceremony last August at their congregation Metropolitan Community Church. "Now everybody else will recognize us," she said.

But things are more up in the air for engaged couple Patrick Plain, 51, and Seongman Hong, 40, of Queens who have been together for six years — as their special day is now trapped in limbo. 

Their tuxes have been rented, and their dogs have been given shots so they can board at "Camp Bow Wow" for $80 a night.

They had to send a note to friends who'd been expecting to attend their celebration Sunday telling them, "Stay tuned."

"There’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars in preparation," he said. "The tuxes have to go back Monday ... I just wish I'd have known a couple of days ago before the plans were put in motion."

The couple, who started planning their wedding on the day Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the marriage equality act into law, say they won't go through with the ceremony without their official license.

"When it passed, it was amazing. It was just an amazing feeling. We immediately decided that we were going to be part of it," he said. "We wanted to be there for that day."

They were among the first to register for a license via an online pre-registration system, and were expecting to arrive at City Hall in Lower Manhattan early Sunday morning to beat the crowds. Plain, who works for the ACLU, was looking forward to being a part of the historic day. 

Plain said if they get the bad news on Friday, they'll push the wedding back.

“If it doesn't happen Sunday we’ll do it Monday," he said.

While at first he was angry with the city for not giving those who'd registered early first dibs, he said he understood the reason.

"Since this is all about equality, maybe the lottery is better," he said.

Abby Peck, 36, works in SoHo, had also planned a visit to City Hall Sunday with her partner, Gina Constantine, who've been together four and a half years.

While they married this Sunday in Massachusettes, the couples wanted to be part of New York history.

“We were going to go this Sunday to register, celebrate and enjoy it," said Peck, who has nixed her Sunday trip to City Hall as a result of Tuesday's announcement. “We’ve waited long enough.”

Couples who want to participate in the lottery can register here.