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Same-Sex Marriage: New York Wins, Westport Loses

Patty Strauss was a bit miffed last Sunday — the day same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

No, she emphasizes, she’s not opposed to 2 men or 2 women having their love sanctioned and affirmed by the Empire State.

Patty’s reaction was more practical:  As Westport’s town clerk, she knows we’ll lose hundreds of dollars each year in license fees.

From 2009 — when Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage — through June 30, 2011, Westport issued 102 same-sex licenses:  52 to female couples, 50 to males.

In that same period, 340 opposite-sex couples received marriage licenses here.

Westport town clerk Patty Strauss takes a pause from issuing same-sex marriage licenses to pore over some records.

The same-sex couples came from all over Connecticut, and beyond:  New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico and California.

“It’s been our pleasure to serve couples from New York who were happy to come here to be married,” Patty says.

I’m as glad as Patty that gay men and lesbians traveled to Westport from across the country to be married here.

But I wondered about those New Yorkers, and Jersey boys (and girls).  Why didn’t they just bop over to Greenwich?

Many did.  But, Patty says proudly, “Westport has a reputation of accommodating everyone, and making them feel very comfortable in the town clerk’s office.”

Patty has witnessed many marriages herself.  One memorable couple was married in the Town Hall lobby, and shared a beautiful cake with Patty’s staff.

The town clerk’s office is filled with photos, and beautiful thank-you notes.  A particularly poignant one came from a couple that had been together for 40 years, before legally marrying.

Justice of the peace Martha Aasen has also wed “quite a few” same-sex couples.

“The word got out that Town Hall extremely welcoming,” she says.  “Lots of places don’t offer same-day service.  But Patty has things ready in 20 minutes.”

Martha notes that our neighbor’s new law will have a dual effect on Westport.  New Yorkers will now stay home to be married — “unless they want a nice country wedding,” she says.

But we’ll also lose couples from other parts of the US, who may opt for a wedding in exciting New York City, rather than one in Connecticut.

Maybe that’s a way to solve the budget crisis in Washington:  legalize same-sex marriages everywhere.

“Mayor Bloomberg was right,” Patty says, ruing the budget she prepared in February — not knowing the New York legislature would soon deprive her of several hundred dollars in fees.  (A Connecticut marriage license costs $30.)

“He said that same-sex marriage is great for New York for many reasons, including the economy.  There are licenses, cakes, caterers.  We’ve benefited the past few years from New York not being as advanced as Connecticut.”

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