"From the fight for women's suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind," said the governor in a statement. "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."
The long anticipated bill prohibits local clerks from rejecting marriage license applications from same-sex couples. Cuomo's bill also offers exemptions from anti-discrimination laws to religious affiliated organizations—which could be key to attracting several wavering Senate Republicans, notes the New York Daily News. "The Knights of Columbus, for instance, would be allowed to bar same sex couples from renting out catering hall space. The bill also specifies that no clergy would be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples."
More on the religious exemptions at Capitol Confidential ....
The introduction of the "Marriage Equality Act" comes one day after the announced support of three Democratic state senators—Carl Kruger, Shirley Huntley and Joseph Addabbo, all of New York City—who voted against the measure in 2009. Rochester Republican Sen. James Alesi—who also opposed the bill previously—also announced his support on Monday.
Cuomo has previously said that he would not introduce a marriage bill unless the votes were guaranteed.
Marriage equality has passed the Assembly three times, most recently by an 89-52 vote in May 2009. The vote failed spectacularly when the Senate took it up for the first time in December 2009. The vote was 38-24, with 8 Democrats joining the entire GOP caucus to oppose the bill.
Thirty-two votes are needed in the Senate. Thirty senators are committed to supporting the measure, so only two votes are needed. The rabidly anti-gay Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. remains the only Senate Democrat who will not support the bill.