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Family law: Hundreds of gay couples marry in New York on day of legalisation

The sixth state in the USA to legally allow gay couples to be married, New York was host to a record number of ceremonies on Sunday (24 July), the day the new law came into force.

The law came into effect at midnight on 23 July and, moments afterwards, the first ceremony took place at Niagara Falls with the stunning waterfall as a backdrop, rainbow-coloured lights shining on it (the colours representing gay pride).

A total of 659 couples were married on Sunday, with many others queuing up to be married in the coming weeks, as soon as they receive their marriage licences.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "Today was a historic day in our city, and we couldn't be prouder that on the first day that everyone in New York City could have their love affirmed in the eyes of the law, we were able to serve everyone."

The new law allows same-sex couples to have the same rights that heterosexual married couples have. These will include making health-care decisions, property and inheritance rights.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said: "Today the doors of marriage equality swing open in New York. It's no surprise a flood of same-sex couples is expected to flow through.

"Until you have walked in the shoes of someone who has been denied this fundamental freedom - a rite that bonds us as people - it is hard to comprehend just how profoundly moving this moment is. Today is a day to rejoice and celebrate."

In the UK, gay couples are not legally permitted to marry but they may form a civil partnership. There are some subtle differences between the two, mainly involving religion, but a civil partnership will afford the couple the same legal rights as with a marriage.

Related links:
Read more on the story (The Telegraph)
A checklist of things to consider when registering a civil partnership (FindLaw)
Find local family solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)