NEW YORK – The New York Senate voted 33 to 29 to pass the gay marriage bill Friday night.
The bill passed after two undecided Republican senators switched their votes to "yes" in the final moments before the vote on the bill. The chapter amendment on religious exemptions was passed earlier, 36 to 26.
Cheering erupted in the Senate chamber and the Capitol hallways after the gay marriage bill passed.
The bill's passage will make New York the sixth and most populous state in the nation to legalize gay marriage.
Republican Sen. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie, who was thought to be undecided, voted in favor of the bill. When he spoke on the religious exemption amendment, he said the gay marriage issue "has been an extremely difficult issue to deal with."
He acknowledged that his decision on the bill is going to "disappoint" a lot of people but that he has "defined doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality and that equality includes within the definition of marriage."
"I know my vote is a vote of conscience and I'm certainly at peace with my vote," he said.
Before the vote, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz of Bronx explained his voting against the bill saying that, "God not Albany defined marriage a long time ago."
He lamented, "It is unbelievable the party that always defended family values, the party that always protected traditional values has become a tool of the Democratic government."
Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo voted "yes" on the bill. He changed his vote from undecided after "doing research."
Although he said that as a Catholic he was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, Grisanti said he could not "legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage."
"Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife whom I love?" he said.
Grisanti also cited the addition of the religious exemption language as reason why he decided to vote in favor of the bill, saying Catholic groups would not be affected.
The Bishops under the New York State Catholic Conference issued a statement saying they were "deeply disappointed and troubled" over the gay marriage bill's passage because it would change the "historic understanding of marriage" and "cornerstones of civilization."
"The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled," said a statement by the New York Catholic bishops, including Archbishop of New York Timothy M. Dolan.
"We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths."
"We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization."
"Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles."