Twenty-four gay and lesbian couples were wed Saturday under two âpop-upâ chapels designed to celebrate the first full weekend of same-sex marriage in New York.
With every âI do,â jubilant whoops and cheers burst from the crowd, a mix of friends, family and passers-by.
The weddings, although held adjacent to the commotion of New York Cityâs Columbus Circle, felt comfortably ensconced in Central Park. The eventâs organizers reported no protests or disturbances throughout the day.
The two chapels, named KISS and ICRAVE, were chosen from more than 50 entries after a 10-day design competition. KISS, designed by architect Guy Zucker, consisted of two interlocking, helix-shaped wood frames.
Carley Roney, co-founder of the marriage service The Knot, which co-sponsored the event, said KISS was constructed this way because, as with a marriage, âthe two pieces canât stand on their own. They need each other to stand up.â
Meanwhile, ICRAVE, designed by architect Lionel Ohayon, covered the betrothed with an array of rainbow-colored ribbon bands dangling from a makeshift roof. The rainbow colors were chosen to reflect gay pride, Roney said.
While the pop-up chapels will be demolished after the event, the newlyweds said there was nothing ephemeral about the vows taken beneath them.
âI promise to always help you find your keys; I promise to give you all the credit when people compliment me in your clothes... I promise to always have your back,â Katrina Olson said to her new wife, Tiffany Hopkins. âThe only thing I canât promise you is my heart, âcause you stole it so many years ago.â
Afterwards, a friend of the coupleâs played The Beatlesâ âWhen Iâm Sixty-Four,â inviting a sing-along from the street crowd and many of the eventâs volunteers.
Like the ceremony for Hopkins and Olson, the services throughout the day focused far more on the relationships than the novelty, or historical significance, of a same-sex marriage.
Shari Berkowitz, one of the weddingâs officiants, said this marked a change from some of the same-sex commitment ceremonies she oversaw 15 years ago, which were often marked with tension. On Saturday, Berkowitz officiated the wedding of Gabrielle Harmon and Jacqueline Cabrera.
âNow, you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other,â she said at the ceremony.
The weather Saturday - sunny without a cloud in the sky - seemed to make this assurance unnecessary.
Additionally, the dayâs attendees said their thoughts were not clouded by the lawsuit, filed this Monday by the conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, challenging the legality of the same-sex marriage law.
âI think itâs going to die,â Jen Frankel said of the lawsuit before she married Jessica Schoen.
Bex Schwartz, one of the eventâs organizers, added, âIâm an eternal optimist; I hope the right way will win out... people realize that we canât say some people are better than others.â
Although the Rev. Jason McGuire, NYCEFâs executive director, has questioned the impact of same-sex marriage on religious institutions, the wedding ceremonies Saturday seemed to embrace the convergence of religious rites and homosexuality.
For instance, during the wedding of Tom Carujo and Scott Baumann, a gay couple of nearly 30 years, Pastor Mark Cutolo discussed the significance of the rainbow in the Bible.
After the flood, âthe eternal God gave Noah the rainbow as a promise he would never destroy the earth again,â Cutolo said.
Now, rainbows also serve as a powerful symbol of gay rights and diversity, he said, and the two are complementary, not contradictory.
âSo, the rainbow is a sign of hopefulness, of life,â Cutolo said, looking up at the effervescent ICRAVE. âA sign that we feel blessed by God.â
The federal government has three days left to raise the nation's current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the Treasury Department said. Failure to do so will risk an unprecedented national default.
If the debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, Americans could face rising interest rates and a declining dollar, among other problems.
As the cost of borrowing rises, individual mortgages, car loans and student loans could become significantly more expensive. Some financial experts have warned of a downgrade of America's triple-A credit rating and a potential stock market crash.
Without an increase in the debt limit, the federal government will not be able to pay all of its bills next month. President Barack Obama recently indicated he can't guarantee Social Security checks will be mailed out on time. Other critical government programs could be endangered as well.
Where do things stand in the fight to raise the debt ceiling?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, temporarily stopped legislative consideration of his debt ceiling proposal late Saturday night, reversing an earlier decision to hold a key procedural vote on the measure by 1 a.m. ET Sunday.
Negotiations were still underway at the White House, Reid said. The vote will now be held at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
There are "many elements to be finalized" and still "a distance to go," Reid said. "We should give everyone as much room as possible to do their work."
The announcement comes a few hours after Reid denied claims from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that progress was being made on a debt ceiling deal.
The Republicans "refuse to negotiate in good faith," Reid said. "The process has not been moved forward during this day."
The Democratic-led Senate on Friday blocked the Boehner plan from being considered, voting 59-41 to table the measure.
Under an amended version, it would reduce federal deficits over the next decade by $2.4 trillion while raising the debt ceiling by a similar amount - meeting the GOP's demand that total savings should at least equal any total debt ceiling hike.
Roughly $1 trillion in the savings are based on the planned U.S. withdrawals from military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reid's plan also would establish a congressional committee made up of 12 House and Senate members to consider additional options for debt reduction. The committee's proposals would be guaranteed a Senate vote with no amendments by the end of this year.
In addition, it incorporates a process proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that would give Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two steps while providing Congress the opportunity to vote its disapproval.
House Speaker John BoehnerÂ expressed optimism Saturday that an agreement is near, despite the House's rejection of a plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"In spite of our differences, we're dealing with reasonable, responsible people," Boehner said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also said Saturday afternoon that he had talked to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden "within the last hour" and is "confident and optimistic" that there will be an "agreement within the very near future."
Earlier Saturday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected Reid's proposed debt ceiling plan in a sharply polarized 173-246 vote. Republicans unanimously opposed the measure while most Democrats backed it. GOP leaders conducted the vote on Reid's bill under rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, thereby ensuring its defeat.
The Republican-controlled House on Friday passed a proposal put forward by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that seeks to raise the debt ceiling and cut government spending while requiring that Congress pass a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 218-210 vote was strictly on party lines. The vote had been scheduled to occur Thursday night, but Republican leaders postponed it because they lacked support within their own caucus to get it passed. After the House vote, the measure went to the Senate, where Democrats blocked it from being considered.
Boehner's plan calls for $917 billion in savings over the next decade, while creating a special congressional committee to recommend additional savings of $1.6 trillion or more. It would allow the debt ceiling to be increased by a total of roughly $2.5 trillion through two separate votes. The $2.5 trillion total would be enough to fund the federal government through the end of 2012.
The plan originally called for a congressional vote on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution by the end of the year. Boehner then reached out to disgruntled conservatives by amending the plan to require congressional passage of such an amendment as a condition for raising the debt limit by the full $2.5 trillion.
Obama has endorsed Reid's plan and threatened a veto of Boehner's plan. The president strongly opposes any bill that doesn't raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 election, and he has promised to veto any short-term debt ceiling extension unless it paves the way for a "grand bargain" of more sweeping reforms and revenue increases.
On Friday, Obama urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to take the lead in congressional negotiations. He said the House GOP plan "has no chance of becoming law." Obama also urged Americans to keep contacting members of Congress in order "to keep the pressure on Washington."
The president made a nationally televised plea for compromise Monday night, though he also criticized Republicans for opposing any tax hikes on the wealthy.
No face-to-face negotiations are currently scheduled for Saturday.
Quarterback Peyton Manning has agreed to a five-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts for $90 million, according to NFL Network.
Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay confirmed the terms of the deal on his Twitter account.
The deal allows the four-time MVP to report to training camp at Anderson University in central Indiana, the club said on its website.
However, due to surgery he had in May, Manning will start the year on the training camp's "Physically Unable to Perform" list, the Colts said. Manning currently is undergoing daily rehabilitation sessions with the Coltâs medical staff.
âSigning Peyton was a top priority for this organization and we are thrilled that the deal is complete,â Irsay said. âWe feel that it is a salary cap friendly deal and it allows us more flexibility.â
Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2006 over the Chicago Bears. In 13 seasons, he has earned 11 Pro Bowl selections and started all 208 career games, the most games to start a career at any position in NFL history, according to the Colts' website. He has completed 4,682 of 7,210 passes for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns. On his next touchdown pass, Manning will join Brett Favre and Dan Marino as the only players with 400 or more touchdown passes.
The "debt ceiling" battle is being fought not just in Washington, but all around the United States as people debate on how best to resolve the issue and who is to blame for the crisis.
Many of these people have submitted their thoughts about the topic to CNN in recent days through iReport. Some - be they military personnel, small business owners fearful of tax increases, or people receiving entitlement benefits - called for action as they spoke of the personal impact of failing to reach a resolution.
Others echoed Democratic and Republican leaders' talking points. In the former case, that includes possible revenue hikesÂ and insisting that the debate shouldn't be renewed next year, and in the latter by insisting on no tax increase and movement on a balanced budget amendment that would mandate the nation balance its books.
Below is a sampling of recentÂ iReporters' comments, as the U.S. government creeps closer to an August 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or default on its debt.
A preliminary 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Sunday morning off the east coast of Honshu, Japan's main island, the U.S. Geological Survey said.FULL STORY
A museum dedicated to Arnold Schwarzenegger opened this week in the former California governor's childhood home, Austrian media report.
Schwarzenegger, whose 64th birthday is Saturday, didn't attend the quiet opening, but organizers have invited him to be back for a grand opening at a date to be determined, the Austrian Times reported.
The museum in Thal will include Schwarzenegger's first set of weights, props from some of his movies and a replica of the desk he used as governor, the Austrian site The Mark reported.
It also may include a picture of Schwarzenegger's estranged wife, Maria Shriver, according to the Austrian Times.