New York becomes latest state to approve same-sex marriage


Photo: CNN Wire Service

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses the press after signing the marriage equality bill the New York State Senate passed only hours earlier on June 24, 2011.

CNN Wire Service

ALBANY, New York — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the state’s marriage equality bill hours after it passed the Republican-controlled Senate on Friday night, making it the sixth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Cuomo signed the bill into law after New York’s Republican-controlled legislature cleared the way to legalize same-sex marriage with a 33-to-29 vote, the first time a state legislature with a Republican majority has approved such a bill.

Under the new law, same-sex couples in New York will now be able to marry within 30 days.

The Senate vote came after days of delays that included last-minute negotiations, passing by a slim margin with the support of four Republicans.

Cuomo credited four Republican senators who joined the majority of the state’s Senate Democrats for the passage of the bill, saying they were “people of courage.”

“I think it was politically more dangerous for a Republican,” Cuomo told reporters late Friday. “The conservative party was threatening them with consequences … and they did it anyway.”

A vote on the measure, which the Assembly passed June 15, has been stalled in the Senate until Friday. But it turned a corner late Friday, according to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, after lawmakers agreed on an amendment to protect religious groups from litigation that had been pushed by Republicans.

Earlier in the day, the Assembly passed a new version of the bill that included the amendment about religious institutions.

Cuomo said it would grant same-sex couples equal rights to marry “as well as hundreds of rights, benefits and protections that are currently limited to married couples of the opposite sex.”

New York, which gave birth to the gay rights movement in the 1960s, will become the sixth state to allow same-sex marriages. Currently, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire and the District of Columbia grant same-sex marriage licenses.

Activists on both sides of the issue gathered in Albany, the state capitol. They chanted opposing slogans — petitioning for either “marriage equality” or yelling “one man, one woman” in defense of the institution’s traditional definition — though they could also be seen occasionally mingling and even singing religious songs together.

Republicans, led by Skelos, had expressed concerns over the “unintended consequences” of a bill that redefines the legal parameters of marriage. The measure needed three Republicans’ votes to pass the bill, which had the support of 31 Senators — just one short of the number required for passage — earlier this week.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who courted Republicans to approve the bill, called the vote a “historic triumph for equality and freedom.”

“In recent weeks, I have had many conversations with our state Senators. I emphasized that not only is marriage equality consistent with bedrock American principles, but it is also consistent with bedrock Republican Party principles of liberty and freedom — and the Republicans who stood up today for those principles will long be remembered for their courage, foresight, and wisdom. In fact, 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, I believe they will look back at this vote as one of their finest, proudest moments,” Bloomberg said in a statement released shortly after the vote.

— CNN’s Mary Snow contributed to this report