On Wednesday the New York state assembly approved a bill which allows same-sex marriage. On Friday the bill will face a vote in the state Senate, where it needs support from just one more senator.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Democratic-dominated assembly voted 80 to 63 in favour of the bill. Together with the 2012 presidential and congressional elections the state-by-state battle over gay marriage has become one of the most disputable US social issues.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton passionately told the assembly about her gay brother who died of AIDS at the age of 37. She said: “The more I thought about my brother, I could only think how dare I, how dare any of us, think that we have the right to withhold full rights, full equality to someone like my brother, who was certainly a much better person than I.”
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat who voted in favour of legalising gay marriage said: “Only second-class states have second-class citizens.” Assemblyman Micah Kellner who supported the bill noted: “This is about people’s happiness.”
The vote turned to be quite dramatic. Assembly members even raised the Torah, and recited prayers. The debate lasted more than two hours. “To me this bill is not about equality. This bill is about marriage. I am not prepared tonight to redefine that institution,” said Assemblyman Don Miller.
The Republicans defended their position and stated that the fact they don’t support the bill doesn’t mean that they are intolerable. “Marriage to me has a separate importance and it has to do with a man and a woman,” said Republican Nancy Calhoun.
“It doesn’t make me a bigot,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. “It makes me a traditional American.” The New York assembly has passed a bill which legalizes same-sex marriages several times. The last time it was rejected by the Democrat-led Senate in December 2009 by a 38-24 vote.
The Senate is now predominantly Republican. 31 of the 62 senators have publicly indicated support of the bill. So it needs just one more vote to be approved. Same-sex marriage is allowed in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia. The first legal same-sex marriages in the US took place in Massachusetts in 2004. Some other US states allow civil unions.
Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon and New York Ranger ice hockey player Sean Avery lobbied lawmakers in Albany to legalize gay marriage on Tuesday. Nixon has been engaged to a woman for two years. She said that wants to get married in her home state. [Header Image by Kelly Huston/Flickr; story via Guardian, Syracuse and CNN]