Two years after the New York State Senate strongly rejected gay marriage it finally came to a vote again tonight. This time, the State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage by a margin of 33 to 29. The religious amendments to the bill passed in the Assembly by 82-47 earlier in the evening; now the bill just needs Governor Cuomo’s signature to become law.
As the vote began there was some confusion when State Senator Tom Duane started to defend the bill he sponsored—saying “What this bill will do is say that we are family in a way that no other word can. And that word is marriage.”—before he was replaced by Senator Stephen Saland who instead defended the bill’s amendment, which he worked on. As he spoke about the bill and its inseverability clause it became increasingly clear that he would be the much rumored 32nd vote in favor of marriage equality in New York State.
“I, like many people, have struggled over this issue. It has been a difficult issue to deal with,” he said. He then spoke of the thousands and thousands of his constituents who had contacted him and said, “They all asked me to do the right thing. Needless to say my decision on this bill is going to disappoint a significant number of people. I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality. And that equality includes the definition of marriage.”
The religious exceptions amendment passed 36-26.
Only four Senators actually spoke before the vote, getting to a lively start when a grandstanding Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., got into a tiff over time limits with Lt. Governor Robert Duffy. Once he was done, Tom Duane got up to speak again in favor of the bill and showed that going too long was not unique to either side of the debate, leading Duffy to cut him off one last time, “I ask you conclude, and I recognize your vote is affirmative.”
Republican Senator Mark Grisanti then spoke about his struggle before coming to his decision to vote for the bill. “A man can be wiser today than he was yesterday,” he said.
After Grisanti there was a brief, nerve-wracking recess so Duffy could confer with Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and then Carl Kruger spoke to the Senate, reiterating how difficult this vote is and repeating Duane’s line that in this vote “there are no villains, there are only heroes.”
And then marriage equality was approved by a Senate vote of 33-29. See who voted for it and who voted against it below.
As the vote went down tens of thousands watched it live online and on TV, or in crowds around the state, most notably in the West Village by the Stonewall Inn where the gay rights movement began in the early hours of June 28, 1969.
Marriage equality wasn’t the only vote in the State Senate tonight. The-so called “Big Ugly” omnibus bill made it through 57-5 and Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to let livery cabs pick up street hails passed as well.