The historic vote on the same-sex marriage bill in New York was passed by a narrow margin of 33 to 29, making New York the sixth and most populous state to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.
The battle is over, but the voices of both proponents and opponents are worth considering given that the national movement to legalize gay marriage has been rapidly gaining momentum.
The New York gay marriage law will come into effect within 30 days.
The same-sex marriage bill, which the State Assembly passed on June 15, has attracted national attention. The bill had been stuck for over a week behind the Senate's closed doors, awaiting one more Senate vote to pass.
Struggled Yes Votes
On Friday night, two Republicans, who had previously held the position of undecided decided yes, gave speeches of how they reached their current positions.
Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo was one of them. His vote was changed from undecided after doing research.
Raised as Catholic, Grisanti grew up believing that marriage is between a man and a woman. The issue of same-sex marriage was never a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Catholic sense of my upbringing, he said.
I'm not here, however, as a senator who is just Catholic. I'm also here with a background as an attorney. To which I look at things and I apply reason, added Grisanti. I have studied this issue. To those who know me, they know I have struggled with it.
Indeed, a story in the Buffalo News earlier this month described Grisanti as torn between his personal beliefs as a Catholic in a conservative district and the issue's civil rights concerns as a lawyer.
After research, however, he could no longer legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage.
Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife, who I love, or to have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her.
Grisanti also brought up the addition of the religious exemption language, believing Catholic groups would not be affected by the bill.
New York Republican Senator Stephen Saland also shifted his position from undecided to yes in the evening.
My intellectual and emotional journey has ended here today and I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality and that equality includes within the definition of marriage, Saland said on Friday night, reported Reuters.
Senator Saland had voted against a similar bill in 2009, when the bill was eventually defeated in a 38 to 24 vote.
In 2009 when the marriage equality bill came before the Senate for a vote, I struggled with the decision. This is an issue which a great many have a deep and passionate interest, both those for marriage quality and those who support the traditional view of marriage. In part, the difficulty in arriving at my decision is that I respect and understand the views coming from both sides of the issue, Saland said in his statement.
Receiving thousands of emails and letters from proponents and opponents, Saland wanted to do the right thing, but needless to say, that decision cannot be the 'right thing' for both sides of the equation and, whatever my decision, there will be many who will be disappointed.
Continuing on, Saland concluded his statement saying, While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know that my vote is a vote of conscience. I have contemplated many difficult votes throughout my career and this is by far one of the most, if not the most difficult. Struggling with my traditionalist view of marriage and my deep rooted values to treat all people with respect and as equals, I believe after much deliberation, I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.
Victory for Equality
A key player in the negotiations was Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker who echoed the sentiment of so many of his colleagues.
Passage of the Marriage Equality Act is a giant step forward in the march toward full civil rights for all New Yorkers and a historic turning point in the journey of our state and nation, he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the passage a historic triumph for equality and freedom.
Upon the legalization of same-sex marriage, Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general said, Today's historic legislation on marriage equality is a resounding victory for justice. This vote means that every man and woman will be treated equally in the county clerks' offices, the courts, and the administrative agencies of the state of New York.
President Barack Obama on Gay Marriage
The president may also have been a key player as well.
The legislative debate coincided with President Barack Obama's visit to New York City on Thursday, where he gave a speech in front of a group of gay rights supporters at a high-profile fundraiser at the annual LGBT Leadership Gala.
President Barack Obama has publicly expressed his opposition to gay marriage throughout his career in national politics.
While Obama said that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as any other couple in this country, he did not fully endorse gay marriage. When he ran for office in 2008, he clearly stated that he was opposed to same-sex marriage, while running as an ardent supporter of the homosexual community. In October 2010, however, Obama declared his evolving position in same-sex marriage, saying he was wrestling with the issue.
Thursday night, Obama defended his administration's record on gay rights, including repealing the ban on homosexuals serving in the military, and ordering the Justice Department to stop defending a law that narrowly defines marriage as that between a man and a woman, reported the Voice of America News.
Disappointed at the Redefinition of Marriage
While this historical step was celebrated by many gay couples and gay rights supporters, the voices of concern have not died down.
The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled, said a statement from Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the bishops of New York State.
We strongly uphold the Catholic Church's clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths, read the statement.
We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.
Our society must regain what it appears to have lost - a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America's foundational principles.
The War Is Not Over
Christian groups opposed to gay marriage rights remain determined to fight the likely expansion of the gay movement, reported the Christian Post. We may have lost the battle, but not the war. We will continue to preach and teach against homosexuality, for God made marriage as a holy covenant strictly between man and woman, said Bishop Satin Greene, U.S. Metropolitan for the Church of Twelve Tribes Apostolic Kingdom.
Despite today's vote, the people of New York recognize that marriage provides a strong foundation for a thriving society, the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of evangelical Christian group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, was quoted by the Post in a statement. State senators who passed the bill to pursue their own agenda or the agenda of liberal activist groups are overlooking the fact that 62 percent of Americans still believe that marriage is one man, one woman, nothing else, Rev. McGuire said.
Prior to the bill's passage, Family Research Council (FRC) released a new documentary titled The Problem with Same-sex Marriage: How It Will Affect You and Your Children. It shows in detail what happens when marriage is redefined, with first-hand accounts of how same-sex marriage impacts the citizens' parental rights, their children, and their religious liberties.
This DVD answers the question, How same-sex marriage would affect society, in particularly how it would affect children, said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at FRC.
Some immediate harms involve a loss of freedom for people who disapprove of homosexuality, and the threat to religious liberty for religious nonprofit groups, such as Christian adoption agencies, claimed Sprigg. Because marriage exists to encourage a traditional family structure, redefining it would mean that fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father, more children would grow up fatherless and birth rates would fall - that's our prediction if same-sex marriage becomes legal in all 50 states.
In a new survey on Religion and Public Life, Pew Forum provides insight into the perspectives of 2,200 Evangelical Christian leaders around the globe. In the survey, it was noted that 84% of Evangelical leaders believe that society should discourage homosexuality. Despite decades of aggressive homosexual activism, the majority of Evangelical leaders understand that homosexuality is morally wrong and socially destructive.
According to Reuters, Suzanne Goldberg, a professor at Columbia Law School commented, I think that having same-sex marriage in New York will have tremendous moral and political force for the rest of the country -- in part because New York is a large state, and in part because it hasn't come easily.
New York is home to more than 42,000 same-sex couples, according to an analysis of U.S. census data conducted by the Williams Institute.