New York Gov. David Paterson introduced a bill Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage.
"We stand to tell the world we want marriage equality in New York state," Paterson said, according to The Associated Press.
The move comes nearly a year after Paterson ordered all state agencies to recognize gay marriages solemnized in other jurisdictions.
In 2007, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer made an attempt to pass legislation that would legalize marriage between same-sex couples. The bill was passed in the Assembly but died in the Senate.
Despite the lack of votes by Democratic senators needed to pass the measure, Paterson still wants the bill to be debated and to come to a vote.
If the legislation is approved by lawmakers, New York would become the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Vermont and Iowa recently joined Connecticut and Massachusetts in recognizing the unions. Same-sex couples were allowed to wed in California for a few months, but a voter initiative in November repealed it.
"The timing was always right. It's just who is willing to take that step, and I am," Paterson said on Tuesday. "I think it is, as other states are showing, the only ethical way to treat people who want to live together in peace under the civil law. So my general feeling about all these issues is the right ethical decision will inevitably be the right political decision."
Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was installed as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York on Wednesday, commented on the governor's proposed legislation during a news conference, saying the Church's position on the issue was clear.
But Dolan, who fielded questions from reporters that ranged from declining church attendance to clergy sex-abuse scandals, didn't articulate exactly how he would oppose the legislation.
Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who opposes the same-sex marriage bill, meanwhile held a meeting on Thursday with the NY Hispanic Clergy Organization to inform ministers of Paterson's legislation and discuss the options they have to block the measure.
"The Governor is also being disrespectful to the new Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan and to every Catholic in New York City by pushing a gay marriage bill the same week that Catholics are celebrating welcoming ceremonies for his arrival," stated Diaz.
"I think it's a laugh in the face of the new archbishop," Diaz said, according to AP. "The Jews just finished their holy week. The Catholics just received the new archbishop. The evangelical Christians just celebrated Good Friday and resurrection. He comes out to do this at this time? It's a challenge the governor is sending to every religious person in New York and the time for us has come for us to accept the challenge."
A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed the percentage of New Yorkers who support same-sex marriage went virtually unchanged from a year ago, holding steady at 41 percent. The figure is up from 35 percent in 2007. The recent poll also found one-third of respondents in support of gay civil unions but not same-sex marriage while 19 percent said they opposed both.
The NY Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, is expected to hear two cases later this year dealing with the issue of recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
One case was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, which is appealing the Court of Appeal's ruling in September that found Paterson was within his right as governor to issue a directive ordering all state agencies to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.
ADF argues that recognizing same-sex marriage performed in other jurisdictions is up to the Legislature, not the governor.