ALBANY - Same-sex marriage is now legal in New Yorkafter Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that was narrowly passed bystate lawmakers Friday, handing activists a breakthrough victory inthe state where the gay rights movement was born. New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed andthe biggest by far. "We are leaders and we join other proud states that recognizeour families and the battle will now go on in other states," saidSen. Thomas Duane, a Democrat. Gay rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize themovement around the country and help it regain momentum after analmost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similarmeasures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland andRhode Island. The bill cleared the Republican-controlled Senate on a33-29 vote. The Democratic-led Assembly, which previously approvedthe bill, passed the Senate's stronger religious exemptions in themeasure Friday. Cuomo made a surprise and triumphant walk around the Senate,introduced like a rock star by his lieutenant governor, RobertDuffy. The filled upper gallery shouted down to Cuomo, "Thankyou!" "Feels good?" Cuomo shouted up with a big smile and thumbs up."Thank you!" The passage of New York's legislation was made possible by twoRepublican senators who had been undecided. Sen. Stephen Saland voted against a similar bill in 2009,helping kill the measure and dealing a blow to the national gayrights movement. "While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I alsoknow my vote is a vote of conscience," Saland said in a statementto The Associated Press before the vote. "I am doing the rightthing in voting to support marriage equality." Sen. Mark Grisanti, a GOP freshman from Buffalo who also hadbeen undecided, also voted for the bill. Grisanti said he could notdeny anyone what he called basic rights.
Some residents watched the vote live at the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Bay Shore. The CEO of the center, David Kilmnick, says the bill guarantees things such as health care and pension rights for gay couples. He says it would also go a long way to help fight discrimination.
Partners Pat and Dawn, who have been together for 16 years, say they now plan to make their union official and tie the knot.Same-sex couples can begin marrying in 30 days.
AP wires contributed to this report.
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