Striking what advocates believe is a historic victory for gay rights, the New York state senate Friday approved same-sex marriage, bringing New York a promised governor’s signature away from being the sixth and largest state to allow gays and lesbians to marry.
The 33-29 vote is an enormous victory for first-year Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who pledged during last fall’s campaign to push for gay marriage. It comes after an intense public and private lobbying campaign from a wide cast of politicians, celebrities and athletes, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton.
Cuomo, whose two daughters attended the vote in the senate gallery, is expected to sign the bill. The bill will become law 30 days after Cuomo signs it, and when it does, it will double the population of Americans to whom same-sex marriage is legal.
After weeks of suspense, Stephen Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican announced himself on the senate floor as the 32nd senator to back the legislation, tipping the balance in favor of it passing. Saland defined his vote as a matter of conscience during a stirring legal defense of an amendment exempting religious organizations from the law.
“I have defined doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality,” Saland said. “And that equality includes the definition of marriage. I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing.”
Saland, who voted against gay marriage in 2009, was joined in announcing his newfound support for gay marriage on the senate floor by Mark Grisanti, a first-term Buffalo Republican who did not declare how he would vote until his floor speech Friday night. Grisanti, who said he struggled with the vote because he is Catholic, had been against same-sex marriage when he was elected last year, but changed his mind after an intense lobbying campaign, which included a call from Lady Gaga to her fans to contact him.
“I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage,” Grisanti said.
Of the 33 senators to vote for the bill, 29 are Democrats and four are Republicans. Of the 29 who voted against it, all but one are Republicans.
Photo above from AP