lawmakers voted late friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making new york the largest state where gay & lesbian couples will be able to wed. the marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments b4 the vote, was approved 33-29 in a packed but hushed senate chamber.
four members of the republican majority joined all but one democrat in the senate to support the controversial measure after an intensely emotional campaign. with his position still undeclared, senator mark j. grisanti, a republican from buffalo who sought office opposing same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he agonized for months b4 concluding he was wrong.
grisanti said, "i apologize for those who feel offended...i cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district & across this state, the state of new york & those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that i have with my wife."
senate approval was the final hurdle for this historic piece of legislation, which was approved last week by the assembly. governor andrew cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m. the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning same-sex couples could begin marrying in new york by late july.
passage of same-sex marriage in new york followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. currently five states permit same-sex marriage: connecticut, iowa, massachusetts, new hampshire, vermont, as well as the district of columbia.
in 2009 the bill was easily rejected by the senate, then controlled by democrats. but as he pledged during the campaign cuomo made same-sex marriage one of his top priorities for the year. he deployed his top aide to coordinate the efforts of a half-dozen local gay-rights organizations - whose disunity & feuding was blamed for the bill's original defeat.
most of the republicans opposed the bill morally. however, many also had political concerns, fearing legalized same-sex marriage on their watch would embitter conservative voters & cost the republicans their one-seat majority in the senate. leaders of the state's conservative party, whose support many republican lawmakers depend on to win election, warned they'd oppose in legislative elections next year, any republican senator who voted for same-sex marriage.
but after days of contentious discussion capped by a marathon nine-hour closed door debate on friday, republicans came to a fateful decision. the full senate would be allowed to vote on the bill, the majority leader, dean g. skelos said friday afternoon. each member would be left to vote according to his or her conscience.
republican lawmakers spent much of the week negotiating changes to the marriage bill to protect religious institutions, especially those against same-sex weddings. the assembly & the senate approved those changes friday. yet they weren't enuf to satisfy the measure's harshest critics. in a joint statement, new york's catholic bishops assailed the vote.
"the passage by the legislature of a bill to alter radically & forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed & troubled," the bishops said. ruben diaz, sr. of the bronx, the only democrat to cast a no vote, said, "god, not albany, has settled the definition of marriage a long time ago."
legalizing same-sex marriage in america is a relatively recent goal of the gay movement. over the past few years gay-rights organizers have placed the issue at the center of their agenda, steering money & muscle into dozens of state capitals in an often uphill effort to persuade lawmakers, media folk & our society. in new york, advocates flooded district offices with thousands of e-mails, phone calls & signed postcards from constituents who favored same-sex marriage.
new york is now the largest state to grant legal affirmation to same-sex weddings. also home to a large, visible & politically influential gay community, supporters described the victory as both poignant & symbolic - in june 1969, a riot against police took place at a west village bar, the stonewall inn. led by black & latino drag queens, the fight was a major turning point of the gay movement, which, unbeknowst to many, actually began in the early 50's.
during a brief recess amidst the vote, senator shirley l. huntley, a queens democrat who recently supported the bill publicly, strode from her seat to the back of the senate chamber. she congratulated daniel j. o'donnell, an openly gay manhattan lawmaker who sponsored the legislation in the assembly. they hugged & o'donnell, standing with his longtime partner, began to tear up. "we're going to invite you to our wedding," mr. o'donnell said. "now we have to figure out how to pay for one."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.