New York legalizes same-sex marriage (Watch video of the historic vote)

Same-sex couples throughout New York can now say, “I do.”

The fourth time was the charm for supporters of same-sex marriage as the New York Senate passed the historic bill by a vote of 33 to 29 in Albany late Friday night. The passing of the bill was met with cheers followed by a U.S.A chant inside the Senate chamber.

“New York has finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The bill which goes into effect in one month will make New York the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriages joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

The bill passed in the Assembly Wednesday, June 15, but the Senate held off voting until amendments were added that gave greater protections to religious institutions.

The amendment states no religious organization must perform marriage ceremonies or are required to allow their facilities to be used for the marriages and can face no legal action for this refusal. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos finally announced Friday evening that the legislation would be brought to a vote.

New Yorkers who watched the vote were kept up late as the bill was the last on the docket Friday night, four days after the legislative session was scheduled to end. Cuomo finally signed the bill into law five minutes before midnight.

“With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law,” said Cuomo.

The act passed in the Senate after failing three previous times with four Republicans joining 29 Democrat votes for the bill. Each Queens senator – Shirley Huntley, Tony Avella, Michael Gianaris, Jose Peralta, Malcolm Smith, Joseph Addabbo, Jr. and Toby Ann Stavisky – voted for the legislation.

“Today, New York reclaimed its mantle as the nation’s human rights leader. I am proud to be one of the ‘yes’ votes that made marriage equality a reality in our state,” said Gianaris.

“New York has always been a leader in movements to extend freedom and equality to people who had been denied full membership in the American family,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg who last week visited Albany and spoke to Republican Senators urging them to pass the act. “By welcoming all people – no matter where they are from, what faith or philosophy they follow, or whom they love – New York became the strongest, most dynamic city in the world. And today, we are even stronger than we were yesterday.”

Same-sex couples can now legally wed in New York State, giving them the same rights as married couples of the opposite sex. Previously, New York only recognized same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

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