Crowds celebrate outside Manhattan's Stonewall after the legalization… (Louis Lanzano / Associated…)
Overwhelmed by marriage applications from gay and lesbian couples, New York City will conduct a lottery to decide who will be allowed to marry at city offices Sunday, the day a state law allowing such unions takes effect.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said 764 couples would be selected to get married Sunday in the city clerk's five borough offices. That's more than the city's previous single-day high of 621 on Valentine's Day 2003. More than 1,700 online applications from same-sex couples already have been received.
"We've done our homework and it's clear that the number of couples who want to marry on Sunday is more than the city clerk's offices could possibly handle," Bloomberg said at a news conference.
Bloomberg and other city officials said 2,661 online applications for marriage licenses had been submitted since July 5, of which 1,728 were same-sex couples benefiting from New York's Marriage Equality Act, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 24.
The law made the state the sixth and most populous in the United States to allow same-sex marriage.
"The fairest way to determine who [can] … wed on Sunday and ensure everyone can properly plan for their own big day is through an even-handed lottery system," the mayor said.
Officials said they were trying to keep the day special for couples and prevent them from waiting for hours only to be turned away.
"We want to make sure that Sunday is not like a trip to motor vehicles," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
One exception to the lottery system is the wedding the mayor is officiating at Gracie Mansion — that of two city officials.