Same-sex licenses available next Sunday

The Brookhaven town hall will open its doors next Sunday to issue marriage licenses on the day a new state law allowing same-sex couples to wed takes effect.

Brookhaven and North Hempstead will be the only clerks' offices on Long Island to open on July 24, a day they normally would be closed. New York City also will open its clerks' offices.

"I believe and feel significantly strongly that the people who are looking for their marriage licenses have waited long enough," said Brookhaven Town Clerk Patricia Eddington.

One couple emailed Eddington to ask if the town would open for business on the historic day. One of the men was ill, and the couple didn't want to travel far from Brookhaven to get their license, Eddington said. Their request spurred her decision to open, she said. Since then, she's heard from about 20 other couples.

Eddington has scheduled two employees to work overtime and handle the paperwork that day. She declined to provide the costs of paying the workers' overtime wages, but said, "It's not a lot of money. It's just a one-time deal."

A new state Department of Health "Affidavit, License and Certificate of Marriage" has been issued to change the "bride" and "groom" headings so that each person getting married can select from "bride," "groom" or "spouse."

Last week, after an upstate clerk resigned to avoid issuing licenses to same-sex couples, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice sent a memo to the county's clerks reminding them of their obligation to uphold the new statute. "Therefore, any such refusal may be subject to criminal prosecution," she wrote.

Calls to the Suffolk County district attorney's office, asking if a similar reminder was issued were not returned yesterday.

In New York, mayors, judges, clergy, city and town clerks and municipally appointed marriage officers have authority to solemnize a marriage, according to Lambda Legal, a national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy organization. The new Marriage Equality Act allows clergy to refuse to marry a same-sex couple, but civil servants may not decline.

Brookhaven and North Hempstead will open at 10 a.m. and issue licenses by appointment only on July 24.

The couple whose inquiry led to Brookhaven deciding to open will be first in line on Monday for their ceremony, Eddington said. "It's so exciting for them," she said. "We're happy to provide the service."

With Emily Dooley

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