Support for marriage equality in NY gains momentum — Cuomo calls for a vote


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Empire State, setting the stage for a possible vote in both the State Assembly and State Senate within a matter of days.

If successful, New York would become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, with Cuomo delivering on a promise he has made since before taking office in January.

“From the fight for women’s suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state – not of religion or culture.

“When it comes to fighting for what’s right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and marriage equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story.”

Marriage-equality legislation has passed numerous times in the State Assembly, but has been repeatedly blocked in the State Senate. In December 2009, when Democrats still controlled the Senate, the bill failed 38 to 24.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of 2009, Cuomo has repeatedly said he would not introduce a bill until enough “yes” votes are secured.

Assured of support in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, the Marriage Equality Act needs 32 votes in the 62-seat Senate to pass.

At this hour, 31 senators have promised support, and six remain undecided.

But the New York Post reported on Monday that privately, Cuomo has the votes needed, and that “far more of the [GOP] members are in play than anyone realizes, including some surprising names from conservative upstate areas.”

Following are the key point of Cuomo’s version of the bill, which includes language that would protect religious groups:

  • Same-sex partners, when married under the law, would have equal rights as heterosexual couples.
  • “No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility related to marriage shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being or having been of the same sex rather than a different sex.” This includes spousal benefits for state employees who are married under the legislation.
  • Clergy would not be required to perform same-sex ceremonies.
  • Religious institutions would not be required to provide their facilities for services that conflict with their beliefs.
  • Gender-specific language in New York law would be rewritten to be gender-neutral.

“The momentum we’ve been building all year has crested at a very opportune time,” said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s largest gay lobby group.

“We’re greatly encouraged that the support in the Senate is now bipartisan,” he said. “We think this is a very strong environment to go into these remaining days of the legislative session,” said Levi.

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