New York State Assembly Approves Same-Sex Marriage; Bill Stuck in Senate

The N.Y. Assembly on Thursday voted in favor of a bill that would allow marriage equality in the state; the measure’s fate now essentially lies in the hands of Republicans

The New York state Assembly approved same-sex marriage on Wednesday, voting 80 to 63 in favor of the marriage equality bill introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The bill’s fate now lies in the hands of Republicans: state senators failed to reach a decision on whether to vote on the measure on Friday, where it would need to garner support from one more Republican in order to pass.

Currently, 31 of the 62 senators have publicly indicated support for the bill. Sen. Ruben Diaz is the only Democrat of the party’s 30 senators who opposes same-sex marriage, while Republican Sens. Jim Alesi and Roy McDonald have expressed interest in voting in favor of it.

Some Republicans apparently “on the fence” about switching their vote to a “yes” are urging Gov. Cuomo to amend the bill’s language to further exempt religious institutions from performing marriages of gay and lesbian couples if doing so conflicts with their beliefs. As it stands, the marriage bill already allows clergy members to refuse to perform such nuptials.

New York’s Assembly has passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage several times in recent years, but the move was rejected the first time it was voted on by the then Democrat-led Senate in December 2009.

“Only second-class states have second-class citizens,” said Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat who voted in favor of the bill.

On Tuesday, actress Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City and New York Ranger ice hockey player Sean Avery lobbied lawmakers in Albany to legalize gay marriage.

If the bill were to come to a vote and pass prior to the end of the legislative session on Monday, same-sex couples could start marrying in New York 30 days later. New York would join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in  allowing same-sex marriage. The first legal same-sex marriages in the United States took place in Massachusetts in 2004. If passed, the bill does not compel any member of the clergy to conduct a same-sex marriage.