The Senate must decide if gay marriages are to get the go ahead in New York after the state Assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill late Wednesday night.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bill was approved 80-63 in the Democrat-led Assembly but faces a tougher vote in the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority.
Republican senators defeated a similar bill in 2009 but there appears to be a more even split in the Senate over the Marriage Equality Act.
The bill would give same-sex couples an equal right to marry as well as other “rights, benefits and protections that are currently limited to married couples of the opposite sex,” the governor’s office said.
Speaking in support of the bill was Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. He said the status quo discriminated against same-sex couples and argued that he and his partner should be allowed to marry.
“This is an immense step toward achieving true equality for all here in New York,” he said.
“I am very proud that under Speaker Silver’s strong leadership and with his unwavering support, we in the Assembly have powerfully voiced our deep-seated belief in equality and rejected legalized discrimination yet again.
“Since we first passed marriage equality four years ago, the need for this law has only grown, with same-sex couples in New York facing daily discrimination from our state. This must end.”
Last night’s debate took on a religious dimension at times, with Brooklyn lawmaker Dov Hikind taking to the floor with a copy of the Torah as he spoke out against the bill.
“The Torah’s so clear on this subject. There is no choice for me. And I’m open-minded,” he said.
Religion was no hindrance for gay lawmaker Harry Bronson, however.
He said: “I would not try to convince anybody to change their religious beliefs being a religious person myself.”
The National Organization for Marriage is urging supporters to contact state senators to stop the legalization of gay marriage. It also expressed concerns over the threat to religious freedom despite provisions in the bill that exempt religious institutions and clergy from solemnizing a same-sex marriage or from providing their facilities for such ceremonies.
There are currently 31 senators in favor of the bill, including two Republicans. A yes vote from one more Republican is needed for it to pass.