Today’s news:

Qns. readies wedding bells

Same-sex couples have waited 40 years to get legally married in New York state, and the marriage bureau at Queens Borough Hall will not make them wait a day longer than it has to.

The City Clerk’s Office, at 120-55 Queens Blvd., is usually closed on weekends, but officials and activists expect it to be buzzing with activity when its doors open at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, July 24.

“I expect a big crowd,” said Brendan Fay, an Astoria same-sex marriage activist. “I guarantee you there will be tears of joy as same-sex couples go through this bureaucratic routine.”

For the rest of the week, Borough Hall will stay open an extra two hours, until 6:30 p.m., to accommodate the expected influx.

The opportunity comes exactly 30 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill that gave same-sex couples the right to apply for a license, even though gay marriages from outside the state were already recognized by Albany.

“It’s historical. It’s dramatic. But, on the other hand, it is unremarkable,” Fay said. “It’s the simple gesture of filling out paperwork and writing ‘married’ for the first time on the form. For people who are straight it is something they take for granted.”

Fay has run a program where he would take same-sex couples, largely from New York City, and travel to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Canada to get marriage licenses, which were then recognized when they returned home.

But now Fay has already seen a shift in the focus of his organization, the Civil Marriage Trail Project.

Since the state does not have a residency requirement to get a license, Fay will now help couples from all over the world come to the city to tie the knot.

“What we’re going to focus on is helping couples on the outside of New York,” he said. “We’ll make them aware of the state’s marriage laws and help people find the help and hospitality they need to get married in New York.“

But one law that will not help the ceremonies July 24 is a 24-hour waiting period. It is required between the time when couples get their license and when they can actually get married.

But according to a statement by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, judges who volunteer to work that day will review waiver requests to circumvent the waiting period law.

There is also another group who might benefit from same-sex unions as well, according to Fay.

“You have the cynics out there,” he said, referring to divorce lawyers, who are also expecting a windfall from the historic legislation.

Even after July 24, Fay said his work as an activist is far from over. Married couples who are recognized by the state enjoy about 700 legal benefits such as the right to sit at the side of a dying loved one in a hospital.

But Fay would like to see same-sex marriage recognized by the federal government, which would give couples about 1,500 legal benefits like a green card for a spouse who is not from the country, which Fay said is especially important for Queens.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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