ALBANY — Talk about being quick with the pen: Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed New York's same-sex marriage into law shortly before midnight Saturday, less than two hours after the Republican-led State Senate approved the measure in a 33-29 vote.
The Democratic governor’s signature is expected to lead to a crush of gay weddings starting in 30 days. His quick OK followed up on his own vow to do so as soon as he received it instead of waiting the usual 10 days to sign it for it to become law.
Advocates are heralding the approval, which came after tense days this week in the run-up to the Senate vote, as a historic step not only in the Empire state but also in the effort to allow same-sex marriages nationally. It makes New York the sixth state in the nation — and by far, the largest — to legalize gay marriage.
The Senate’s vote of approval came shortly after Republican Sen. Stephen Saland said he had decided to shift from being undecided to support the bill. In 2009, he voted against a similar bill in 2009, helping kill the measure and dealing a blow to the national gay rights movement.
Before Saland announced his intention, 31 senators were in favor, one short of the majority needed.
The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill last week.
Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as does Washington, D.C., according to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which advocates equal rights for gay, bisexual, and transgender people. New York, along with Maryland, recognizes such marriages from other jurisdictions. With 19.4 million residents, New York is the country’s third-most-populous state.
Cuomo met with gay-rights advocates, delivered speeches, and held private conferences with legislators in a bid to build momentum for the measure in the face of vocal opposition from Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan and other traditional-marriage supporters. A change of heart last week from three Democrats and two Republicans who helped defeat a similar bill in 2009 seemed to signal a vote was imminent.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has compared the fight for gay-marriage rights with the civil-rights battles of the 1960s, visited Albany twice in the past six weeks to help Cuomo in his lobbying efforts.
“It really is a historic triumph for equality and freedom,” Bloomberg said after the vote. “This really is a great day for New York and America.”
Advocacy groups from both sides of the debate swarmed the Capitol in recent weeks, filling the halls outside the Senate chamber. Adversaries stood beside one another, holding signs that read “Defend Biblical Marriage” and “‘I Do’ Support Marriage Equality” as they jockeyed to make their chants and songs the loudest.
The cause also attracted a cadre of celebrities. “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, New York Rangers hockey player Sean Avery and Food Network chef Mario Batali walked the Capitol halls to support the measure. Former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree spoke against it.
It also had backing in the financial community.
“To remain a global economic leader, New York must compete for intellectual capital, and marriage equality is one more way to attract the best and the brightest, regardless of sexual orientation,” John Mack, chairman of Morgan Stanley, wrote in an Op-Ed this month.
A law approving same-sex nuptials would provide $142 million in economic benefit to New York City and $184 million to the state during the three years following its enactment, a 2007 report from the New York City comptroller’s office found. The state would collect about $8 million more in taxes and fees, and save more than $100 million in health-care outlays. The city would collect about $7 million in taxes and fees and experience no impact on outlays, the report estimated.
Greater economic security resulting from marriage may spark more home-buying and generate more tax revenue, the report said. Many of the largest private employers based in New York already offer health benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
Companies that offer spousal and family benefits may incur higher costs for health insurance, according to the report. It would cost about $11 million more annually for companies located in New York City and $21 million for those elsewhere.
Same-sex domestic partners of state and city agency employees already receive health benefits, making it “unlikely that the public sector would incur additional costs due to spousal health benefits” if same-sex marriage is legalized, the report said. The same is true of pension costs, it said.
A June 5-8 Siena College telephone poll of 819 registered voters had found that 55 percent of New York voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 40 percent were opposed, and 5 percent were undeclared.
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