New York legislature approves gay marriage

ALBANY, N.Y.,  (Reuters) – New York’s state  legislature gave final approval yesterday to same-sex  marriages, a key victory for gay rights ahead of the 2012  presidential and congressional elections.
New York will become the sixth and most populous U.S. state  to allow gay marriage. State senators voted 33-29 to approve  marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew  Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office.
“New York has finally torn down the barrier that prevented  same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from  receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and  families take for granted,” Cuomo said in a statement.
After Cuomo signs the bill into law, same-sex weddings can  start taking place in New York in 30 days, though religious  institutions and nonprofit groups with religious affiliations  will not be compelled to officiate at such ceremonies.
“I have to define doing the right thing as treating all  persons with equality and that equality includes within the  definition of marriage,” said Republican Senator Stephen  Saland, speaking before the bill was passed.
Cheers erupted in the Senate gallery in the state capital  Albany and among a crowd of several hundred people who gathered  outside New York City’s Stonewall Inn, where riots following a  police raid in 1969 sparked the modern gay rights movement.
“It’s about time. I want to get married. I want the same  rights as anyone else,” Caroline Jaeger, 36, a student, who was  outside the Stonewall Inn.
But New York’s Catholic bishops said they were “deeply  disappointed and troubled” by the passage of the bill.
“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,” the New York  State Catholic Conference said in a statement.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate for gay  marriage who lobbied state lawmakers in recent weeks, said the  vote was an “historic triumph for equality and freedom.”
“Together, we have taken the next big step on our national  journey toward a more perfect union,” he said in a statement.

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