NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that officials are holding an online lottery to fill the 764 available marriage slots for gay and lesbian couples looking to wed on July 24, when the state can legally perform same-sex weddings.
According to the mayor's office, officials have already received 2,661 applications from those who want to tie the knot on the very first day the gay marriage law takes effect.
"We are going to make history on Sunday, with the eyes of the nation once again turning to New York City," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement.
Bloomberg, who said he did not want applicants to needlessly line up only to be sent away, is asking same-sex couples who want to get married to enter the lottery drawing.
The lottery, which started Tuesday at noon, will conclude at noon on July 21. Winners will receive a wedding license and a slot to get married at their designated clerk's office on Sunday, July 24, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
More than 60 judges have volunteered to work Sunday to review requests to waive the 24-hour marriage waiting period and to perform marriage ceremonies for eligible gay and lesbian couples.
New York officially became the sixth state to allow gay marriage on June 24, after the Senate voted 33 to 29 in favor of the bill and Bloomberg signed the act into law the same evening.
The passage of the Marriage Equality Act drew strong opposition from many Christian and conservative organizations throughout the state who argue that the gay marriage law undermines the sanctity of marriage and families.
Bishops under the New York State Catholic Conference said they were "deeply disappointed and troubled" by the new law.
"We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization," the Catholic bishops stated following legislation's passage.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn also protested the law by saying he will bar New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers who supported the law from participating in events at parishes and schools.
The issue has also affected government officials who feel that their participation in the signing of marriage licenses for gay couples would force them to violate their religious beliefs.
Laura Fotusky, a clerk for the town of Barbara, stated in her resignation letter last week:
"The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a divine gift that preserves families and culture. Since I love and follow Him, I cannot put my signature on something that is against God."
Opponents of New York's gay marriage law have long pointed to the legislation's lack of protections for religious freedom.
They say that while the gay marriage law contains exemptions for religious organizations or corporations, it does not shield individuals or public officials who refuse to provide marriage services to gay couples from facing civil lawsuits.