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New York City offices open Sunday July 24 for gay marriages

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City will open its clerk's offices on Sunday, July 24, to allow same-sex couples to wed on the first day the state's gay marriage bill goes into effect, officials said on Wednesday.

City clerk's offices in the five boroughs of New York normally are closed on weekends, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that for this special occasion they will be open.

"This is a historic moment for New York, a moment many couples have waited years and even decades to see -- and we are not going to make them wait one day longer than they have to," Bloomberg said in a statement.

City Clerk Michael McSweeney added that his office expected "large numbers of people on the first day."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last month signed the state's Marriage Equality Act into law, making the state the sixth and most populous in the United States to allow gay marriage.

Earlier this week, same-sex couples eager to marry in New York hit a bureaucratic snag when marriage license applications made available to them still used the terms "bride" and "groom." But the forms were later changed to include the terms "Spouse A" and "Spouse B."

State law generally requires couples to wait 24 hours after receiving a marriage license before they can wed.

But on Sunday, July 24, state judges will volunteer to perform ceremonies and review requests for waivers of the 24-hour waiting period, according to the mayor's office.

The New York city clerk's offices will be open two hours later than usual for the first five weekdays after the same-sex marriage bill goes into effect to accommodate what is expected to be heavy demand from same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses and civil ceremonies.

When a California Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in June 2008, the state saw a spike in marriage licenses issued, as gay and lesbian couples lined up to wed at municipal offices.

California voters later banned gay marriages by approving a constitutional amendment in the November 2008 election.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis. Editing by Peter Bohan)

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