Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
On Friday evening New York became the sixth state to approve same-sex marriage — an historic victory for gay rights advocates and bitter defeat for the bill's opponents that came during an overtime legislative session in Albany.
The vote came after days of closed-door deliberations by Republicans in the Senate and thrust New York into the national spotlight on same-sex marriage an issue that had been defeated in 2007 and again in 2009 by the state Senate.
But momentum for a fresh effort began earlier this year, when newly elected Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a marriage equality law would be the centerpiece of his social agenda. Over the last two weeks of Albany's legislative session, support had been snowballing, and Cuomo, confident the bill would pass, introduced the measure to the Senate last Tuesday.
It appeared the Senate was one vote away from the 32 needed to pass the bill last week when Republican Senator Roy McDonald said he would vote 'yes,' for the bill bringing the State Senate yes/no count to 31-31.
Earlier, Democrats Shirley Huntley, Joseph Addabbo, and Carl Kruger announced that they would vote in favor of the bill. Senator Ruben Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, remained the lone Democrat in opposition. Republican Senator Jim Alesi said he too would support the bill.
But Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos delayed bringing the bill up for a vote, and leadership in both legislative chambers extended the session beyond June 20 in order to resolve issues with several measures, including a property tax cap and rent regulations.
Republicans continued to conference behind closed doors, specifically scrutinizing the language over more protections for religious organizations and institutions that didn't want to recognize or perform gay marriages.
While the legislation has passed, legislators can still repeal the gay marriage law in future sessions. Such an effort is underway in New Hampshire, where Republican Representatives have introduced repeal bills.
In Iowa, the state Assembly has tried to pass an amendment to the state constitution retroactively defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
New York joins those states as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont as the only ones to allow same sex couples to get married. Washington, DC also has legalized same-sex marriage.