Empire State Building hosts first same-sex weddings

Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:20pm EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lucky couples have been married each year on Valentine Day's on the top of the Empire State Building for nearly two decades but this year for the first time two same sex couples said "I do" at the iconic New York landmark.

The sky-high nuptials on Tuesday followed the legalization of gay marriage in June when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law making New York the sixth, and most populous U.S. state, to approve gays and lesbians to wed.

"We just thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get married on top of the Empire State building, especially since it is the first year that gay marriage is allowed," said Phil Fung, a 49-year-old product manager at a financial services firm who wed his partner Shawn Klein, 51, a hospital administrator.

The couple, who live in New York, met 18 years ago at The Roxy, a famous Manhattan nightclub, and have been together ever since.

"It was love at first sight," said Fung. "We have been talking about getting married now that gay marriage was passed in New York state and friends of ours told us about the contest."

They will be among an estimated 21,000 gay and lesbian couples from New York who are expected to marry within the first three years of the law passing and nearly 42,000 from out of state who will pick New York for a destination wedding, according to a report by the Independent Democratic Conference.

Fung and Klein are among the select few chosen to exchange vows 61 floors up in the sky. They were one of four couples selected from hundreds of applicants this year from around the country who submitted a video to win their dream wedding at the Empire State Building that was completed in 1930 and is visited by 3.5 million people each year.

Both have visited the 102-floor landmark but it was be a first-time experience for some of their guests, including many relatives of South Dakota-born Klein, who is one of 13 children. Eleven members of his family planned to make their first trip to New York for the ceremony.   Continued...

<p>Phil Fung (R) holds hands with Shawn Klein, his life-partner of 18 years, during their marriage ceremony on the 61st floor of the Empire State Building in New York, February, 14, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Burton</p>