Our Thoughts on NY Marriage Equality

New York State Legislature Makes History, Passes Marriage Equality

June 24, 2011

The Matthew Shepard Foundation applauds the political courage and basic sense of fairness of the New York Legislature, following today’s historic vote to make New York the nation’s sixth state to recognize the fundamental right of same-sex couples to enter into marriage.

Ending several years of sporadic debate, the New York Senate voted 33-29 to approve the Marriage Equality Act.

The Legislature’s lower house, the Assembly, had voted last week, with a bipartisan 80-63 majority, to pass the marriage equality bill for the fourth time in recent years. It had most recently passed that body in December 2009, but the Senate did not act. With the Legislature now meeting in the final hours of an already-extended session, the Senate vote was make-or-break for the legislation.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

New York will join Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing same-sex couples to marry. California had allowed same-sex couples to marry between June and November 2008 until passage of that state’s Proposition 8 repealed the right. Maine’s Legislature approved same-sex marriage in 2009, but it was overturned by voters later that year and never took effect.

Internationally, same-sex marriage is also legal nationwide in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Norway, Sweden and South Africa.

“New York’s politically courageous step forward today continues to highlight the growing public recognition that same-gender couples deserve the basic legal protections long afforded to their heterosexual counterparts,” said Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “New York is home to more than 6 percent of the U.S. population, and today’s action more than doubles the number of same-sex couples who will now enjoy this fundamental freedom.”

State recognition of same-sex marriages still does not guarantee federal recognition of those marriages due to the 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act.” Congressional or federal judiciary action would be required in order for same-sex marriages to guarantee the wide array of marriage-dependent federal rights ranging from Social Security benefits to joint tax-filing status.

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