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New York Lawmakers Pass Marriage Equality Bill

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Friday Jun 24, 2011

The New York State Senate voted 33-29 late on Friday, June 24, to approve a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

"Marriage says we are a family," said gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan], referring to his partner Louis during an emotional speech on the Senate floor. "Louis and I are family and marriage strengthens all families. It's going to strengthen my family and all New York families."

State Sen. Mark Grisanti [R-Buffalo] cited his Roman Catholic upbringing while speaking on the Senate floor. At the end, however, he said he could not deny someone the same rights he and his wife enjoy through marriage. "I cannot come up with an argument against same-sex marriage."

State Sen. Ruben Diaz [D-Bronx] spoke out against the measure before the vote--and he challenged Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy when he tried to stop him from prolonging the debate.

"I proudly vote no," proclaimed Diaz.

The highly anticipated vote came days after the legislative session had been scheduled to end on June 20. LGBT rights organizations view marriage equality in New York as a watershed moment in the movement for nuptials for same-sex couples.

"New York is the largest state in the country to end marriage discrimination," said Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry. "With this victory in New York, we have doubled the number of Americans who live in states with the freedom to marry. Together, we are changing hearts and minds and building the kind of successful campaign it will take to win marriage nationwide."

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, was inside the Senate chamber when the vote took place. "Love and fairness wins the day for all New Yorkers and our families," he said. "Today is a historic day and a victory for equality and justice - it is the culmination of many years of work by the Pride Agenda and others across the state. We are thrilled that finally all loving, committed New Yorkers will be able to make the commitment of marriage here in the Empire State."

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn echoed Levi.

"When I was a little girl I dreamed I would one day get married, I never imagined that it would take tonight's Senate action to make that dream come true. Tonight's historic Senate vote is a great moment for all New Yorkers," she said. "New York State's recognition of marriage equality for same sex couples is an extraordinary step towards full equality for LGBT people. Tonight's sweet victory in Albany will be felt all across America. At long last, the change we have fought for will be seen in the lives of families throughout our great state, including my own."

New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer [D-Queens] and his partner, Dan Hendrick, issued a statement of their own. "Today, at last, our state government has caught up with the truth that our families, colleagues and neighbors have long known: GLBT citizens deserve the same rights, recognition and respect as every other New Yorker," they said.

"History was made today in New York," added Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon."

The law will take effect in 30 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs it.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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