The New York State Legislature voted by 33-29 Friday night to legalize same-sex-marriage rights in the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed the legislation, signed the bill into law just before midnight and the law will take effect in 30 days.

New York becomes the sixth state in the country to recognize same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The District of Columbia permits same-sex marriage, but the federal government does not recognize them. As the largest state to recognize same-sex marriage, New York will essentially double the number of people who have that right in the United States.

The outcome of the vote remained in doubt until the measure was taken up on the floor of the State Senate about 10 p.m. Friday, with a gallery filled with onlookers. When State Sen. Stephen Saland, a Republican from Poughkeepsie who had voted against a similar bill in 2009, said he was backing the measure, it had the 32nd vote that was needed for passage. State Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who is in his first term, announced on the Senate floor that he was backing the bill even though he was against same-sex marriage when he ran for office. The final tally had 29 Democrats and four Republicans voting yes. Grisanti had faced an intense lobbying effort. Even Lady Gaga urged her fans to email Grisanti on the issue.

“I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife,” Grisanti said.

When the vote was announced, onlookers in the Senate gallery chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

The issue sparked some of the most vocal lobbying Albany has seen in a long time with supporters and opponents filling the halls of the State Capitol, chanting and singing. The Assembly voted to pass same-sex marriage on June 15, but the legislation got hung up in the Senate until agreement was reached on an amendment that would protect religious organizations from claims of discrimination if they chose not to facilitate same-sex marriages.

After the vote on Friday night, Cuomo said in a news conference, “Democracy works when the people speak, and the people spoke in volumes.” The Senate announced via Twitter that more than 50,000 people viewed the livestream of the vote on the Senate’s website.

But even as supporters of gay marriage celebrated their victory, opponents were expressing dismay. New York state’s Roman Catholic bishops released a joint statement that said in part: “We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.”


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  • Jane C Woods June 29, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Hi! As a British woman where we’ve had same sex civil ‘marriages’ for some time I was somewhat amazed to learn that New York did not. But all in good time, I guess. Well done the New York legislature!