New York has legalized same-sex marriage, becoming the sixth state to do so and by far the largest. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law Friday night. "I am very proud of New York and I'm very proud of the statement we made today," he said. The law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning same-sex couples will be able to get married as early as the end of July. The legislation went down to the wire in a late vote Friday, when four Republicans eventually swung toward a final tally of 33-29.
State Prepares for Wedding Surge
New York State is expecting throngs of gay couples to flock to clerks' offices to be legally married when the new law goes into effect on July 24. There are approximately 45,000 gay couples living in New York State, and officials expect thousands to marry immediately. New York City plans to increase the number of state judges who are able to perform marriages, and a new marriage license application must be written and distributed. The new law is also expected to boost the economy: In 2009, it was estimated that the state economy would grow by nearly $210 million during the first three years that same-sex marriage was allowed.
Bill's Passage Hinged on Religious Freedom
Governor Andrew Cuomo and three Republican senators negotiated language changes in the gay marriage bill that pushed it over the hump. Republicans wanted legal protection for religious organizations that refused to allow their buildings to be used for same-sex marriage ceremonies. The provision also prevents those organizations from being penalized by state government and provides protection for clergy or other employees who refuse to participate in such ceremonies. Perhaps most importantly, the final law included an inseverability clause that will prevent these protections from being overturned: if any part is ever found to be invalid, the rest will go down as well.
Gay Marriage Celebrations Erupt in Greenwich Village
New York City's Greenwich Village was abuzz with celebration Friday night, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Revelers gathered near the Stonewall Inn, where the city's gay rights movement was born more than 40 years ago. "Equality is what this means; this is our right as people," said John Huls, 52, in the Stonewall Inn with his partner. People danced in the streets and poured into gay and lesbian bars throughout the West Village. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg weighed in on the measure—the passage of which coincides with the city's annual Gay Pride weekend—calling it a "historic triumph for equality and freedom."
Andrew Cuomo's Amazing Session
It's only Gov. Andrew Cuomo's first legislative session, and he's perhaps already restored credibility to New York's government. He delivered an on-time budget that closed a $9 billion deficit. He gave New York its first-ever cap on local property taxes. He delivered on ethics reform. He extended and expanded the state's rent laws. And how did he pass the gay marriage bill? Cuomo got major Republican donors, some of whom have gay family members, to influence and insulate nervous GOP senators from any conservative and fundraising backlash if they supported the bill. Cuomo presented the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with some donors' libertarian views.
Celebrities Cheer New York Gay Marriage
Celebrities are rejoicing to the passage of same-sex marriage in New York—many have been pushing for equality for decades. Ellen DeGeneres said on Twitter: "I'm thrilled about the news from NY. Marriage equality! Every day we get a little closer. What an amazing feeling." Neil Patrick Harris also tweeted: "It PASSED! Marriage equality in NY!! Yes!! Progress!! Thank you everyone who worked so hard on this!! A historic night!" Lady Gaga was even more dramatic: "I can't stop crying. We did it kids." Odd couple Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin had a hilarious exchange. "Alec! Now we can get married!" Martin said, to which Baldwin replied: "OK. But if you play that ... banjo after 11 o'clock..."