As a board member of Marriage Equality New York, Rob Lassegue has been on the front lines of the battle for same-sex marriage.
He will be near the front of the line with his partner, Manuel Reyes, when hundreds of gay couples get married in New York City on Sunday, the first day that their marriages will be legal.
"I didn't want to get married in any other state or country besides the one that I live in,'' said Lassegue, a 41-year-old event planner.
Lassegue and Reyes, a 32-year-old waiter, have been together more than eight years. They plan to arrive at the city clerk's office at 7:30 a.m. for their wedding, then stick around and answer other couples' questions about the process before heading off for a celebratory cruise on the Hudson River.
More than 800 couples entered a lottery to get married in New York City on Sunday, the day New York becomes the sixth and largest U.S. state where same-sex couples can marry. All of them will be able to tie the knot, thanks to dozens of judges who are volunteering their time.
City officials had estimated that about 2,500 couples might show up at city clerk's offices in the five boroughs on Sunday. By the time the 48-hour lottery had drawn to a close on Thursday, 823 couples had signed up. They were all informed by phone and email that their weddings were on.
Once they arrive, couples will be seen by judges who 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. Couples who wish to have their ceremony performed elsewhere in the city are free to skip the final step and instead head to their chosen location.
Phyllis Siegel, a 75-year-old retired bookkeeper, and Connie Kopelov, an 85-year-old retired labor educator, will wear white pants and blue shirts for their ceremony.
"So far that's the plan,'' Siegel said Friday. "I think it's a nice look.''
Siegel and Kopelov are marrying "because we love each other, which I guess is the first thing,'' Siegel said.
After more than 20 years as partners, they are getting used to the idea of being a married couple.
"I guess she'd be my wife, I'd be her wife,'' Siegel said.
"Partner can mean anything.''
Opponents of same-sex marriage were planning demonstrations for Sunday. The National Organization for Marriage planned protests at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Manhattan office and at other locations around the state.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Friday that he would make legalizing same-sex marriage a top priority in the 2012 legislative session.
Gay marriage legislation passed the Maryland Senate this year, but stalled in the House of Delegates when it became clear it was a few votes short of passage.
While O'Malley supported the bill and said he would sign it, he had not included the measure in his list of legislative priorities this year. Supporters are confident O'Malley's stronger backing will make the difference next year.