by Jeremy Leaming
Under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the New York legislature passed a measure recognizing gay marriage -- making the action the nation's biggest step forward for marriage equality.
By a vote of 33 to 29, the Senate, after a week of wrangling, moved the bill, introduced by Gov. Cuomo, to his desk for approval. The New York Times reported that the governor signed the bill into law not long after the measure's passage. New York is the sixth state to legalize gay marriages. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriages.
The vote came late Friday night, and after many days of intense debate, especially over an exemption for religious groups that refuse to perform same-sex marriages, citing religious liberty rights.
A few Republican senators, including Sen. Stephen Saland, who TPM reported on, supported the measure:
Republican Sen. Stephen Saland, who had been undecided about the bill and was one of the legislators who led the negotiations, announced during the debate on the Senate floor that he would support the bill; effectively giving it the 32 votes it needed to pass.
Saland said in his speech that the new language would ensure that "conflicts [were] resolved in favor of religious exemptions." He added that people on both sides of the debate had contacted him and asked him to "do the right thing."
"My intellectual and emotion journey has ended here today," Saland said, "and I have to find doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes within the definition of marriage. And I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing."
Civil rights groups hailed the victory as a landmark.
The Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese said, "History was made today in New York. This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon.”
The Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan called the approval of gay marriage in New York a really big deal because it was a "Republican-led State Senate" that passed the measure. He added that the credit goes to "one of the most determined, consistent, professional and impassioned campaigns we have ever fought for marriage equality."