Cuomo Introduces Marriage Equality Bill

A day after four previously undecided state senators announced they would support a gay marriage bill in New York (three Democrats, one Republican), Governor Andrew Cuomo formally introduced a marriage equality bill in the last week of the legislative session.

The move demonstrates Cuomo's significant confidence that a majority of senators will openly support the bill by the end of the week. The governor has said on numerous occasions that he would not introduce a bill until he was sure he had the votes for its passage.

On Tuesday afternoon, Republican Senator Roy McDonald said he would support the bill, which means gay marriage advocates are one vote away:  "I changed it because I'm trying to be a compassionate person and do the right thing I think it was the appropriate thing to do," McDonald said.

Freshman Republican Senator Sen. Mark Grisanti also moved from "no" to "undecided" on same-sex marriage, bringing the number of "undecided" senators from five to six.

"For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage Equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state – not of religion or culture. When it comes to fighting for what's right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and Marriage Equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story," the Governor said in a statement.

Here are some of the details in the text of the bill:

  • Same-sex partners, when married under the law, would have equal rights as heterosexual couples. "No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility related to marriage shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being or having been of the same sex rather than a different sex." This includes spousal benefits for state employees who are married under the legislation.
  • Clergy would not be required to perform same-sex ceremonies.
  • Religious institutions would not be required to provide their facilities for services that conflict with their beliefs.
  • Gender-specific language in New York law would be rewritten to be gender-neutral.

Advocates say they're confident they will be able to get the bill signed by the governor this year. If passed by the legislature into law, the law will take effect 30 days later.

With reporting from Karen DeWitt in Albany.