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New York City will hold a lottery for couples who want to get married on the first day same-sex marriage will be legal, the mayor announced Tuesday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that 764 couples will be selected to get married on Sunday in the city clerk's five borough offices. Couples can register for the lottery online or by calling 311 in the 48 hours beginning noon Tuesday, and winners will be notified by Friday at noon.
Officials said they were trying to keep the day special for couples and prevent those seeking wedded bliss from waiting for hours only to be turned away.
"We want to make sure that Sunday is not like a trip to motor vehicles," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
For couples who do not land a spot through the lottery, the city clerk's office will continue expanded operations next week, bringing in extra judges and staff and staying open two extra hours each day to handle the anticipated demand.
Starting Monday, those weddings will be performed first-come, first-served, but Bloomberg said he doesn't expect people to be camping out overnight to get married.
"It's not buying an iPad 2," he said.
"It's way better," added Quinn.
Officials said 2,661 couples have already preregistered for marriage licenses online, and they believe about half of them wish to be married on Sunday. In all, officials expect about 2,500 couples to enter the lottery.
Couples who live out of state can enter the lottery, but officials said they expect the majority of entrants to be local residents.
On Sunday, judges will perform three steps all at once: granting a marriage license, granting (on a case-by-case basis) a waiver of the waiting period, and performing a ceremony.
Generally, Quinn said, judges refuse to grant waivers only in cases where an individual appears to be under duress or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Each couple must register under the names that will appear on the marriage licenses. City officials hope that rule will prevent people from giving away or selling their spots.
Each borough will hold a separate lottery, and couples can enter only one. Winners can show up for their wedding at any time during the day Sunday, and officials say they should expect to be married about an hour later. Couples who wish to say their vows elsewhere can enter the lottery and receive the license and waiver on Sunday, then leave for their ceremony.
The one exception to the lottery system is the wedding that the mayor himself is officiating at Gracie Mansion - that of two city officials.
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