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Associated Press, Published June 25 2011

New York Legislature narrowly legalizes gay marriage

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York lawmakers narrowly voted to legalize same-sex marriage Friday, handing activists a breakthrough victory in the state where the gay rights movement was born.

New York will become the sixth state where gay couples can wed and the biggest by far.

“We are leaders, and we join other proud states that recognize our families, and the battle will now go on in other states,” said Sen. Thomas Duane, a Democrat.

Gay rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island.

“Once this is signed into law, the population of the United States living under marriage equality doubles,” said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda in an interview. “That’s certainly going to have a ripple effect across the nation. It’s truly a historic night for love, our families, and democracy won.”

Though New York is a relative latecomer in allowing gay marriage, it is considered an important prize for advocates, given the state’s size, New York City’s international stature. The gay rights movement is considered to have started with the Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1969.

The New York bill cleared the Republican-controlled Senate on a 33-29 vote. The Democrat-led Assembly, which previously approved the bill, passed the Senate’s stronger religious exemptions in the measure Friday, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign it. Same-sex couples can begin marrying 30 days after that.

Cuomo made a surprise and triumphant walk around the Senate, introduced like a rock star by his lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy. The filled upper gallery shouted down to Cuomo, “Thank you!”

Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox rabbis and other conservative religious leaders fought the measure, and their GOP allies pressed hard for stronger legal protections for religious organizations.

Each side of the debate was funded by more than $1 million from national and state advocates who waged media blitzes and promised campaign cash for lawmakers who sided with them.

But GOP senators said it was Cuomo’s passionate appeals in the governor’s mansion on Monday night and in closed-door, individual meetings that were perhaps most persuasive.


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