The New York State Assembly has passed the Marriage Equality Act, which will allow same-sex couples to marry their significant other in what is being called a historic move by the NY legislature.
The bill has received much support throughout the state as well an extraordinary push by Governor Andrew Cuomo who has teamed with bill sponsors Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell in urging the NY State Senate to join them in their personal and legislative desire to 'make marriage equality a law.'
Assembly bill A08354, [pdf], which was introduced at the request of Governor Cuomo, received a large amount of support by Assembly members with over 60 sponsors and co-sponsors actively pushing the bill forward through the 2011 session.
The text of the bill states:
Marriage is a fundamental human right. Same-sex couples should have the same access as others to the protections, responsibilities, rights, obligations, and benefits of civil marriage. Stable family relationships help build a stronger society. For the welfare of the community and in fairness to all New Yorkers, this act formally recognizes otherwise-valid marriages without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex.
The bill will also protect members of the clergy from civil liability for refusing to perform same-sex marriages but will not protect religious organizations from liability in cases of employment and housing discrimination for couples in same-sex marriages.
The NY Assembly, which is controlled by a Democratic majority, voted 86 to 63 in favor of the bill, according to Reuters and is expected to be voted by the NY Senate as soon as Friday, with reports saying it is currently one vote short of the number required for passage. Officials are optimistically looking for the one needed vote of support from a Republican controlled Senate for approval before the bill will be sent to the Governor's office, where it is expected to be signed immediately.
In a Siena Research Institute poll over 55% of registered New York voters surveyed said they favored the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, making same-sex marriage legal. More then a quarter of New Yorkers polled listed legalizing same sex marriages as one of their top two priorities in the current legislative session.
In a press release from the NY State Assembly yesterday, Speaker Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, said, "This is a matter of equity and justice. New Yorkers should have the right to marry whom they choose. Partners unable to enter into a civil marriage, and their children, lack basic legal protections taken for granted by married couples."
Daniel O'Donnell, (D-Manhattan), added "Today, the Assembly has yet again put itself solidly on the side of justice and equality for all in New York State. This is the fourth time that we in the Assembly have passed Marriage Equality under Speaker Silver's unwavering support and leadership, and my courageous colleagues who have supported the bill since 2007 deserve immense praise and thanks. This action takes us one step closer to removing legalized discrimination from our law books and reclaiming New York's position as a leader in equality for our nation."
If the Marriage Equality Act becomes law in New York, couples will be required to apply for a license to marry and will have 60 days to deliver the license to the clergymen or magistrate performing the ceremony for the marriage to be valid.
Currently in the United States five states plus the District of Columbia are granting licenses for same-sex marriage according to information provided by NPR. These include Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Forty-one states, including New York, prohibit same-sex marriage.