Assembly Passes Gay Marriage, Senate Fight Begins

New York could become sixth state to allow same-sex couples to wed

New York's State Assembly approved legislation Tuesday that would allow gay couples to marry, as Democrats in the Senate scramble to get enough votes to turn the proposal into law.

"Today’s New York State Assembly vote in favor of allowing same-sex marriage is the next step in making full equality the law for same sex couples in New York State," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said yesterday.  "But more importantly, it sends a message that marriage equality for same sex couples has the overwhelming support of the people of our state."

Even opponents of the bill had expected easy passage in the Assembly, where Democrats hold a super majority. Similar legislation was approved in the Assembly in 2007 but it fizzled after the Senate failed to vote on it.

Proponents said they believe they have about two dozen of the 32 votes needed for approval in the Senate, including those of 19 Democrats who are sponsors of the measure. A timetable for the Senate vote has not been set.

Democrats have a 32-30 margin in the Senate. But at least one Democrat, conservative minister Ruben Diaz Sr., is opposed to gay marriage and is helping to organize a demonstration against the legislation.

Diaz and a group of Hispanic religious leaders said Monday they are planning to hold an anti-gay marriage rally outside of Gov. David Paterson's Manhattan office this week.

If New York were to pass the legislation, the state would become the sixth to allow same-sex couples to wed. Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa all allow gay couples to marry.

However, the issue remains deeply controversial, with perhaps the most bitter dispute taking place in California, where voters in November voted to overturn a state supreme court ruling legalizing gay marriage. 

A Siena College poll in April found 53 percent of voters wanted a gay-marriage bill. The sentiment was strongest among Democrats, and Democrats are growing in numbers even in traditionally Republican Senate districts.

The Rev. Duane Motley, founder of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which opposes gay marriage, said defeating the proposal in the Assembly is almost impossible. Although he's concerned about the bill's chances in the Senate, he said Monday he's still confident it will be blocked from the floor or defeated.

"There's always a chance of people jumping ship," Motley said, referring to the intense pressure Republicans face from voters and advocates of same-sex marriage. "The fact is marriage is a basic, fundamental building block of our culture and this would end up crumbling it." 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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