In a historic victory for civil rights, the New York state Senate voted late Friday to pass the Marriage Equality Act, with two surprise votes from Republican senators at the eleventh hour bringing the final tally to 33 in favor, 29 opposed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law just before midnight. Gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry in New York State legally beginning July 24.
I’m always proud to be a New Yorker, but tonight Iím especially proud to be a New Yorker, Cuomo said in a press conference.
Marriage equality advocates, who had been camped out in the capitol buildingís hallways for the past week, broke out in cheers as the motion was passed. Activists in the Senate chamber hugged and wept with joy as soon as the vote tally was read. In New York City, hundreds of people gathered in and outside the famed Stonewall Inn to celebrate–a marked difference in attitude from the same weekend in June 42 years ago, when the Stonewall riots launched the modern LGBT rights movement.
ìLove and fairness wins the day for all New Yorkers and our families. Today is a historic day and a victory for equality and justice ñ it is the culmination of many years of work by the Pride Agenda and others across the state,î said Ross D. Levi, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the stateës oldest LGBT rights organization. ìWe are thrilled that finally all loving, committed New Yorkers will be able to make the commitment of marriage here in the Empire State.î
ìThis is a profoundly moving and historic moment for New York. This vote affirms our common humanity. It means same-sex couples will no longer have to cross state lines to marry. It means New York lives up to its reputation as a national leader. It honors New Yorkís unique history as being the place where the modern gay rights movement sprang to life,î concurred Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the nationwide LGBT rights group.
New York is the sixth and most populous state to permit same-sex marriage. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a leading think tank in the field of law and public policy relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, legalizing marriage equality will affect more than 42,000 same-sex couples in the Empire State. About 21 percent of those couples are already legally married.
The Williams Institute also indicated that the percentage of same-sex couples living in states that allow them to marry, now including New York, has more than doubled, from 6.9 percent to 14.3 percent.
Celebrations are being scheduled across the state. In New York City, marriage supporters are encouraged to march with the Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York and similar groups at New York City Pride on Sunday.