NEW YORK – A bill that would legalize same-sex "marriage" in New York was passed Tuesday by an 85-61 vote in the Democratic-led Assembly.
Authored by openly gay assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan), brother of lesbian entertainer Rosie O'Donnell, and backed by New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, the bill passed following a three-hour debate and is one of several same-sex issues that have been dominating the state. The bill is not, however, expected to pass through the Senate, which has a Republican majority.
Faith groups have been expressing their disapproval of the future possibility of the bill becoming law.
"The Catholic Church teaches that we treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with dignity and love," explained a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference. "However, marriage is not some political term of art that can be re-imagined or redefined according to the whims of popular culture."
Currently, the New York legislation was contemplating legalizing homosexual civil unions, which grants same-sex partners most of the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive. O'Donnell says that is not enough, however.
"It will not provide equality for people like me," he said.
Massachusetts is currently the only state that allows same-sex "marriages." California would have been the second state to add that provision when both legislative bodies OK'd it in 2005, but it was later vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In addition to the obvious moral objections, other faith leaders are worried that the passing of a gay marriage bill will also open the door for other questionable bills to pass in the future.
"Maybe we should include incest in the bill and sort of deal with the whole package at one time," explained Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), an orthodox Jew.
According to a recent poll run by Quinnipiac Universtiy and released on Tuesday, 35 percent of registered New York voters support a same-sex marriage bill while another 35 percent only support civil unions. 22 percent of voters want no recognition of any kind for homosexual couples.
The current bill is only one of many issues that have been drawing attention to the attitude of New York citizens towards homosexuality in the state.
On May 16, a federal judge held up the "marriage" of 170 gay couples even though the state courts had already ruled in July 2006 that marriage was solely between one man and one woman. The judge argued that any two wed in Massachusetts, which had legalized the act in 2004, before 2006 was technically still married since the state had not made an official ruling yet.
On May 1, the New York State Department of Civil Service (DCS) agreed to redefine its term "spouse" to include same-sex couples married outside the state. The headquarters officials then advised state agencies to provide health benefits to them. On May 23, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of New York residents against the act, however, since the ruling would expend taxpayer money.
"Marriage is not simply a state benefits system, and its redefinition would be extremely damaging to our families and children," explained Brian W. Raum, senior counsel for ADF, in a statement. "Because marriage is defined as the legal union of one man and one woman, the New York State Department of Civil Service has no legal authority to recognize out-of-state same-sex 'marriages.'"
Although the same-sex marriage bill is important to Spitzer, the New York governor has explained that he will not force the Senate to act quickly on deciding its outcome. He feels that there are other more important issues that have a better chance of passing that need to be addressed first.
"We're not doing gay marriage by Thursday that's for sure, or this year," explained Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, according to the Associated Press.
Only four Republicans in the Assembly voted in favor of the bill.