ALBANY, NY On a historic night, The New York State Assembly voted to pass a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The bipartisan vote was 85-61. The bill had been introduced by Governor Elliot Spitzer earlier this year.
This was the first time that either house of the State Legislature debated and voted on legislation regardinng same-sex marriage.
Western New York Members of the Assembly Sam Hoyt, (D. Buffalo), Crystal Peoples, (D. Buffalo), William Parment (D, Jamestown) and Mark Schroeder, (D. Buffalo) voted to pass the civil rights legislation.
Voting no were Democrats Robin Schimminger, (D. Tonawanda), Francine DelMonte (Niagara Falls) and Dennis Gabryszak (Cheektowaga) joined by Republicans James Hayes, (Amherst), Michael Cole, (Elma), Jack Quinn, (Hamburg), Daniel Burling, (Warsaw) and Stephen Hawley, (Albion).
The bill amends state domestic relations laws to allow the State of New York to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The bill does not change the right of civic officers and religious clergy to opt out of officiating at marriage ceremonies.
Republican member of the Assembly Jack Quinn (R. Hamburg) led the debate in opposition to the civil rights measure.
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo is a cosponsor of the bill. The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell (D. Manhattan). O'Donnell and his partner had been plaintiffs in the legal case that sought to have the New York State Court of Appeals to find that the State Constitution did not prohibit gay marriage. Last July the court found that there was s constitutional prohibition on gay marriage in New York and that a legislative solution was needed.
“The Assembly has demonstrated once again that it is the leader on civil rights and providing equality for our community where it didn’t exist before in New York,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.
Perhaps the high point of the debate came from Republican Teresa Sayward from Adirondack North Country. Sayward spoke about the struggles her son had with his sexual identity and his subsequent success in life that came after he became the person that he really is. Sayward received a significant ovation from her colleagues in the assembly and those present in the gallery.
In order to become law the bill will need passage in the State Senate and signed by the Governor.
Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno(R. Albany), said of his chamber, “We’re not doing gay marriage by Thursday; that’s for sure, or this year.”
“We’re not going to take a vote; we have too many other issues,” Mr. Bruno, the state’s top Republican, said at a news conference on Tuesday morning.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Kings County Democrat who is an Orthodox Jew, just finished his comments on the bill, during which he said he planned to vote "no" unless "God sends a message to me during the next two hours of debate."
Not long after Hikind sat down and Buffalo Democrat Mark Schroeder, rose to make a statement, a clap of thunder was heard outside the Capitol, which caused the chamber to break out in laughter.
"Should I yield?" Schroeder quipped, eliciting more laughter.