With a hurried signature shortly before midnight, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a same-sex marriage bill into law Friday and gave New York State a place in American social history.
“New York made a powerful statement,” Cuomo said, “not just for the people of New York, but people all across this nation. We reached a new level of social justice this evening.”
Cuomo’s signature capped months of discussion and negotiation, pleading and posturing among advocates and the opposition and those in between.
In the end, it was Republican legislators who brought the idea of marriage equality to reality. Four Republican members of the Senate joined Democrats in passing the bill on a 33-29 vote. One Democrat voted against the measure, which had cleared the lower chamber, the Assembly, last week.
Cuomo, himself a Democrat, praised the four Republicans. “The Conservative Party was actually threatening them with consequences and primaries, and they did it anyway,” he said. “And I think they showed themselves to be people of courage.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who lobbied for the bill, also offered warm words for the members of the GOP who broke from their party’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
“The Republicans who stood up today for those principles I think will long be remembered for their courage, foresight and wisdom,” said Bloomberg, who is now a political independent, though he once was a Democrat and, later, a Republican. “Ten, 20, 30 years from now, I believe they will look back on this vote as one of the finest and most proud moments in their life.”
In New York there was much celebration Friday night and well into this morning, but there was some despair as well. The state’s Roman Catholic leadership expressed disappointment in the vote.
“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 bishops throughout the state. “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 Democrat who voted against the bill, Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., who represents the Bronx, echoed the archbishop’s view. “God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage, a long time ago,” Díaz said, according to the New York Times.
The four Republican Senators who voted for the measure were Mark J. Grisanti from Buffalo, Stephen M. Saland from the Hudson Valley, Roy J. McDonald from Albany and James S. Alesi from suburban Rochester.
Grisanti had made opposition to same-sex marriages part of his election campaign. He said it took months for him to change his mind.
“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Grisanti told his fellow Senators on Friday. “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is, the same rights that I have with my wife.”
Once the law takes effect in 30 days, New York will become the sixth state in the nation, and by far the largest, to grant marriages to same-sex couples. Same-sex marriages are already legal in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa, as well as in the District of Columbia.