ALBANY, NY — Today, a bipartisan majority of the Republican-controlled New York Senate voted 33-29 to pass a bill securing the freedom to marry for all couples in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to promptly sign the bill into law, and to make New York the sixth—and most populous—state to afford gay and lesbian couples the same marriage rights available to heterosexual couples.
“New Yorkers have plenty to celebrate this Pride Month. There’s no doubt that today will be revered as a major turning point in civil rights history. A bipartisan group of legislators have affirmed that equal rights for every citizen is not a partisan issue, but an American value.
“Yet for millions of Americans who do not live in New York, Washington DC, or the five other states that have recognized the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian Americans, they are still suffering the injustice of discrimination every day.
“The freedom to marry is a constitutional liberty and the birthright of every American. Constitutional rights belong to every individual, regardless of the state you inhabit. This has recently been affirmed within the past year by federal courts in our nation’s most prominent civil rights cases.
“A federal court ruled Proposition 8, California’s ban on marriage for gay and lesbian citizens, unconstitutional stating that “…Because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”
“The U.S. Department of Justice and the federal courts found the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ unconstitutional because it unfairly discriminates against gay and lesbian marriages.
“Now, Prop. 8 is hanging by a thread and marriage equality in California is closer than ever, guaranteeing permanent and full equality for all gay and lesbian Californians, and ultimately for all Americans.
“Simultaneously, public opinion has also been rapidly shifting. No less than six national polls have found that a clear majority of the American public now embraces the freedom to marry for all.
“We are beginning to see the dark walls of discrimination crumble.
“The American Foundation for Equal Rights will continue its work in the federal courts and will not stop until all Americans have the same rights, including the freedom to marry, as guaranteed by our Constitution.
“We would like to express our appreciation and admiration for the unrelenting efforts of the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition. They deserve enormous gratitude for their effective advocacy in the legislature, as do all New Yorkers who spoke up and lobbied their elected officials to take a stand against inequality and discrimination.”
New York is considered an important prize for LGBT advocates, given the state’s size and New York City’s international stature and its role as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, which is said to have started with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969.
The effects of the law could be felt well beyond New York: Unlike Massachusetts, which pioneered gay marriage in 2004, New York has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license, meaning the state could become a magnet for gay couples across the country.