On Tuesday, the New York State Assembly voted in favor of passing a marriage equality bill, which allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in New York.
The bill, co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., of Sag Harbor, passed 89-52 and now must pass through the state senate before Governor David Paterson can sign the legislation into law.
In 2007, the assembly passed a similar bill, 85-61, although the measure failed to get through the state senate. Assemblyman Thiele did not support the bill in 2007, a move he said he later regretted.
“I am committed to the civil rights of all New Yorkers,” said Thiele in a statement last week. “I didn’t support the bill in 2007, because I thought equal rights could be guaranteed through civil unions. Since then more states have experimented with civil unions as separate but equal, only to find that discrimination persisted in health care and other areas. The only way to ensure equality is by giving all couples access to the same civil right — the right to marry.”
If made law, the bill will amend the Domestic Relations Law to give same sex couples the right to legally marry in New York State, while including a provision that states no member of the clergy can be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine have all legalized same-sex marriage and both houses in New Hampshire have also passed similar bills, although that measure is still waiting to be vetoed or signed by Governor John Lynch.
Governor Paterson, who has said he will sign the bill into law if it gets through the state senate, has already issued a directive to state agencies to recognize all same-sex marriages performed outside of New York, including marriages performed in Canada.