New York gay marriage bill passes
New York has legalized gay marriage after a week of delays. Celebrations erupted and the Empire State building was lit up in rainbow pride colors.
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A huge street party erupted outside the Stonewall Inn Friday night, with celebrants waving rainbow flags and dancing after the historic vote. They included Sarah Ellis, who has been in a six-year relationship with her partner, Kristen Henderson, said the measure would enable them to get married in the fall. They have twin toddlers and live in Sea Cliff on Long Island.Skip to next paragraph
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"We've been waiting. We considered it for a long time, crossing the borders and going to other states," said Ellis, 39. "But until the state that we live in, that we pay taxes in, and we're part of that community, has equal rights and marriage equality, we were not going to do it."
A number of celebrities also praised the vote. Lady Gaga tweeted that she couldn't stop crying, while Pink tweeted, "congratulations!!!!!!!!! About time!"
The New York bill cleared the Republican-controlled Senate on a 33-29 vote. The Democrat-led Assembly, which previously approved the bill, passed the Senate's stronger religious exemptions in the measure Friday, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign it. Same-sex couples can begin marrying 30 days after that.
Cuomo made a surprise and triumphant walk around the Senate, introduced like a rock star by his lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy. The filled upper gallery shouted down to Cuomo, "Thank you!"
"Feels good?" Cuomo shouted up with a big smile and thumbs up. "Thank you!"
The passage of New York's legislation was made possible by two Republican senators who had been undecided.
Sen. Stephen Saland voted against a similar bill in 2009, helping kill the measure and dealing a blow to the national gay rights movement.
"While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience," Saland said in a statement to The Associated Press before the vote. "I am doing the right thing in voting to supportmarriage equality."
Gay couples wept in the gallery during Saland's speech.
"We are leaders and we join other proud states that recognize our families and the battle will now go on in other states," said Sen. Thomas Duane, a Democrat.
The climactic vote came after more than a week of stop-and-start negotiations, rumors, closed-door meetings and frustration on the part of advocates. Online discussions took on a nasty turn with insults and vulgarities peppering the screens of opponents and supporters alike and security was beefed up in the Capitol to give senators easier passage to and from their conference room.
The sticking point over the past few days: Republican demands for stronger legal protections for religious groups that fear they will be hit with discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to allow their facilities to be used forgay weddings.