New York Gay Couples Rush to Marry, Perhaps Divorce

PHOTO: Fredy H. Kaplan and Anthony Cipriano have their names in the New York City lottery to be among the first gay couple to marry.
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Fredy Kaplan, 50, and Anthony Cipriano, 42, will display their wedding bands -- the letters "F" and "A" tattooed on their ring fingers -- as they arrive at New York's City Hall today to be among the first couples to marry in the largest state to legalize gay marriage.

Kaplan is an attorney and gay rights activist, and Cipriano constructs showroom displays for high-end retailers. The couple will keep their own names for professional reasons, though they often refer to themselves as "Kapliano."

"It's going to be the Woodstock of gay marriage," said Kaplan when he learned Friday that he and Cipriano would be one of 823 same-sex couples to tie the knot today. "Tons of people are going to witness it and it's going to be bigger than the gay pride parade."

But as the hundreds of affianced make their way to the legal altar this week, how many of those unions will be "until death do we part"? Each year, 40 to 50 percent of all marriages between a man and a woman end in divorce in the United States.

Kaplan and Cipriano are optimistic they will beat the odds.

"We've had our ups and downs, but we always got through it," said Kaplan. "That's why we always knew it would work out with us. ... We've been together so long."

The pair, who have lived together "lovingly" for six years, share a small apartment in the East Village with their two dogs -- "a Tibetan terrier to die for" and an old, black, miniature schnauzer.

"The most important thing is that we know we are recognized, we are verified," said Kaplan, who with Cipriano will wear a white polo shirt and khakis when they exchange vows today.

"Matching, of course," he said. "We're gay."

More couples are expected to get married at New York City Hall than at any other time in history. An estimated 60 state judges have volunteered to work on Sunday to review requests to waive the usual 24-hour waiting period.

There is no data on divorce rates among gay couples in marriage equality states, according to the Williams Institute, a University of California Los Angeles Law School think tank. But a study of states that have civil unions and domestic partnerships showed about 2 percent of same-sex couples dissolved their relationships -- "about the same percentage of married couples who divorce in a given year," said Williams research scholar Gary Gates.

Studies of heterosexual couples at the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey showed that those who moved in together without clear wedding plans appeared to have an increased risk of divorce.

"Couples who cohabitate are less religious, more untraditional and poorer," said Nicholas Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah and author of the 2005 book, "Understanding the Divorce Cycle."

"All of these things are basically good predictors of divorce," he said. "But it reflects the kinds of people who are likely to cohabit and not the relationship."

Wolfinger said he hesitates to apply that to gay couples.

"Plenty would be married, but they couldn't," he said. "I suspect, for many reasons, those couples are more likely to stay together than heterosexuals."

Same-sex couples tend to be older, and "the older you are the more likely you are to stay married," he said.

Other studies showed a "fairly large minority" of gay men tend to be more promiscuous, according to Wolfinger.

"So far, many gay men seem to be OK with that," he said. "But as gay marriage goes forward, that's a big question. It may not be as big a predictor as for heterosexual couples."

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