Marriage Equality Act

Marriage Equality Act
Marriage Equality Act
Seal of New York.svg

New York State Legislation
Full name Marriage Equality Act
Status Passed
Introduced June 14, 2011
Assembly Voted June 15, 2011
Senate Voted June 24, 2011
Signed into law June 24, 2011
Sponsor(s) Assem. Daniel O'Donnell, Sen. Thomas Duane
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Code Domestic Relations Law
Section Sections 10, 11, 13
Resolution AB A08354
Website Text of the bill and Text of an amendment

The Marriage Equality Act is a 2011 New York State law that allows gender-neutral marriages for both same- and opposite-sex couples, while prohibiting state and local courts and governments from penalizing religious and religious-supervised institutions, their employees, or clergy for refusing to sanctify or recognize marriages in contradiction with their religious doctrines, or for refusing to provide services and accommodations for such weddings.[1] It was introduced to the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell. It was signed into law on June 24, 2011, and took effect on July 24, 2011.



The moment of the Marriage Equality Act vote in balcony of the capital building in Albany, New York, the evening of July 24, 2011 photographed by Celebration Chapel of Kingston, NY.[2] Persons in foreground are wearing t-shirts bearing the logo of the Human Rights Campaign, one of many organizations backing the bill.

Before July 24, 2011, New York only allowed for recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states of the union[3][4] and countries where same-sex marriage is legal, such as Canada and Spain, while also limiting legal recognition of in-state same-sex relationships to the rights of unregistered cohabitation; numerous municipalities afford domestic partnership registries to residents engaged in same-sex relationships.

The bill made New York the sixth state in the United States to legalize and retain the in-state certification and legalization of same-sex marriage (excluding California, which legalized and performed some 18,000 same-sex marriages before a ban on further marriages was promulgated through referendum), and also made the state the most populous in the union to do so.[5]

Prior legislative history

A similar bill which would legalize same-sex marriage performances in New York was passed by the State Assembly in 2007 by a majority of 85-61,[6] but languished in the Republican-controlled Senate before dying and being returned to the Assembly.[6] Then-governor Eliot Spitzer promoted the bill among lawmakers in Albany.

Another bill, A40003, was passed in the Assembly on May 12, 2009 with a majority of 89-52,[7] but languished in the Senate during the November 10 special session.[8] It was re-passed by the Assembly on December 2[9] but the Senate equivalent, S4401-2009, was defeated on the same day in the Senate by a majority of 38-24, with 8 Democratic senators voting against the Democratic caucus.[10] David Paterson, who also promoted the bill, introduced the bill on April 16.[11]


Governor Andrew Cuomo, like his predecessor Paterson, promoted the bill and the general movement for legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. The majority of the Democratic senatorial caucus, which constitutes the minority in the Senate, also supported legalization of same-sex marriage.

Three Democratic senators who voted against the December 2009 bill, Shirley Huntley, Carl Kruger and Joseph Addabbo Jr., announced their support for the 2011 bill on June 13.[12] James Alesi became the first Republican senator to announce his support for the bill,[12] and Roy McDonald became the second on June 14, narrowing the requirement for passage to just one.[13]

Democratic senator Rubén Díaz, Sr. was a vocal opponent of the legalization and resigned from the Minority Caucus to demonstrate his opposition to its position on the legislation.[14] The majority of the Republican caucus in the Senate voiced opposition to any attempt and the Conservative Party of New York stated that it will not endorse the reelection of any senator who votes in favor of legalization. On Friday, June 24, 2011, Republican Senator Andrew Lanza announced that he would vote against the bill.[15]

The Assembly passed the legislation on June 15, 2011 by a majority of 80-63.[16]

A Senate vote was delayed while closed-door negotiations took place among the leadership of the Senate, the Governor and the Republican caucus. The bill was made part of the "controversial calendar" which was eventually moved to the Friday following the intended end of the legislative session on June 20. From June 15 to June 24, protests both for and against the vote took place inside and around the capital complex, and organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, New Yorkers for Marriage Equality, and the National Organization for Marriage took part in the rallies.

As thousands of New York residents lobbied the Senators, Senator Greg Ball invited the public to participate in an online poll on Twitter and Facebook. Ball eventually decided to vote against the bill. On June 24, Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced the decision to have the Senate consider the legislation as the final bill of the legislative session. Rallies took place in Albany and New York City, with crowds gathered on Christopher Street in front of the Stonewall Inn (the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots and the origin of the first Gay Pride March) in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

While the Senate met, the Assembly voted on a set of amendments developed to win the support of Senators concerned about the Act's impact on religion-based opposition to same-sex marriage, which detailed exemptions for religious and benevolent organizations. The exemptions are tied to an inseverability clause, ensuring that if the religious exemptions were successfully challenged in court, then the entire legislation and thus legal same-sex marriage would be invalid.[1] It passed with little debate. The Senate approved the amendments to the bill on a vote of 36-26.

In the final vote on the bill itself, both Thomas Duane, co-sponsor of the Senate bill, and Diaz, opponent of the bill, spoke in defense of their positions. Republican senators Mark Grisanti and Stephen Saland joined Alesi and McDonald as the only Republicans supporting the legislation, while Diaz cast the only Democratic vote against the bill.

On June 24, 2011, the Senate first voted to add the amendments to the legislation by a vote of 36-26[17][18] and then approved the legislation by a vote of 33-29. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the act into law at 11:55 pm that evening.[19] The Act took effect on July 24, 2011.

Final Senate roll call

Senator Party Vote on
Vote on
Eric Adams Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Joseph Addabbo, Jr. Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
James Alesi Republican Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Tony Avella Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Greg Ball Republican Red XN No Red XN No
John Bonacic Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Neil Breslin Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
David Carlucci Independent Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
John DeFrancisco Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Rubén Díaz, Sr. Democratic Red XN No Red XN No
Martin Malave Dilan Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Thomas Duane Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Adriano Espaillat Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Hugh Farley Republican Red XN No Red XN No
John J. Flanagan Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Charles Fuschillo Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Patrick Gallivan Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Michael N. Gianaris Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Martin Golden Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Joseph Griffo Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Mark Grisanti Republican Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Kemp Hannon Republican Green tickY Aye Red XN No
Ruth Hassell-Thompson Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Shirley Huntley Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Owen H. Johnson Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Timothy M. Kennedy Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Jeffrey Klein Independent Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Liz Krueger Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Carl Kruger Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Andrew Lanza Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Bill Larkin Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Kenneth LaValle Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Thomas W. Libous Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Betty Little Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Carl Marcellino Republican Green tickY Aye Red XN No
Jack Martins Republican Red XN No Red XN No
George D. Maziarz Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Roy McDonald Republican Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Velmanette Montgomery Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Michael Nozzolio Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Tom O'Mara Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Suzi Oppenheimer Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Kevin Parker Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Jose Peralta Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Bill Perkins Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Michael Ranzenhofer Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Patty Ritchie Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Gustavo Rivera Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Joseph Robach Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Stephen Saland Republican Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
John Sampson Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Diane Savino Independent Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
José M. Serrano Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
James Seward Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Dean Skelos Republican Green tickY Aye Red XN No
Malcolm Smith Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Daniel Squadron Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Toby Ann Stavisky Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Andrea Stewart-Cousins Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
David Valesky Independent Democratic Green tickY Aye Green tickY Aye
Catharine Young Republican Red XN No Red XN No
Lee Zeldin Republican Red XN No Red XN No



The Empire State Building lit in rainbow colors following the passage of the Marriage Equality Act.
  • PFLAG issued a statement applauding the Senate for passage. Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG, said "This step towards equal civil rights – in one of the largest states in our nation – affirms recent polls that most Americans are now in favor of marriage equality for our LGBT loved ones. PFLAG mothers and fathers all over the state of New York will be celebrating with their sons and daughters, who can now legally marry the people they love in their hometowns.[20] "
  • Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said "History was made today in New York. This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon.[21] "
  • Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson, said “With the freedom to marry in New York, the nationwide majority for marriage will swell, as even more people get to see why marriage matters to same-sex couples, that gay couples, like non-gay, treasure the chance to affirm and strengthen their commitment, and that ending marriage discrimination helps families and hurts no one”[22]
  • National Organization for Marriage posted to Twitter that “Marriage loses 33-29 in New York. Sad day for the state and the country. But the fight has just begun.”[22] NOM later pledged to spend $2 million in the 2012 elections to defeat the four Republicans (James Alesi, Mark Grisanti, Roy McDonald, and Stephen Saland) who voted for the bill and three Democrats (Joseph Addabbo, Shirley Huntley, and Carl Kruger) who previously stated opposition to same-sex marriage but voted for the bill.[23]
  • The Conservative Party of New York said it would withdraw support for any candidate who voted for the bill.[24][25]

Religious and moral institutions

  • The New York State Catholic Conference, led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, stated to NBC News that it was "deeply disappointed and troubled" and that it will "alter radically and forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage.[26] "
  • Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, said that "Today we celebrate this victory. Unitarian Universalists are committed to standing on the side of love until the freedom to marry is the right of all Americans."[27]


  • Governor Andrew Cuomo, who sponsored the bill and signed it into law, said that “New York has finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted.” He also said that “With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law.”
  • Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, whose in-progress news conference was interrupted by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who announced the passage of the bill, called the passage "a historic triumph for equality and freedom." He also said that he would support the Republicans who voted in favor of the bill in the next legislative election.[28]
  • Christine Quinn stated that "This is a monumental occasion for myself, my family, and the LGBT community. No longer will families in New York have to worry about medical decision-making authority, inheritance rights, presumption of parenthood among many other rights and responsibilities. Today true equality is closer than ever.[29] "
  • White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the Washington Blade by e-mail that “The president has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.” He further stated “That’s why he has called for repeal of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and determined that his administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should.” On June 23, incumbent President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Human Rights Campaign's annual gala in which he did not take an explicit position on marriage equality, but instead iterated that New York was “doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do,” insisting that the decision should be left to state governments.[30]
  • U.S. junior Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand stated that "New York has always led the way for equal rights – from leading the suffrage movement, to Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable speech opposing slavery at Cooper Union, and we have done it again.[31] "
  • U.S. senior Senator from New York Chuck Schumer posted to Twitter "Congrats to New York for once again championing equality."
  • U.S. Congressmember Xavier Becerra stated "New Yorkers have justly reminded America of what it means to establish a ‘more perfect union’".
  • Congressmember Jerrold Nadler stated that "Now more than ever, we must pass the Respect for Marriage Act, my legislation to repeal the discriminatory DOMA, and allow New Yorkers and others who are - or will be - legally married to take part in the full measure of protections and obligations of federal law. Just last night in New York City, President Obama reiterated his belief that DOMA violates our Constitution and must be repealed."[31]
  • California Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom said "Thank you to NY State Legislature & Governor Cuomo for recognizing that marriage is more than a word: it's about dignity & equality."[32]
  • Openly-gay candidate for 2012 Republican presidential nomination Fred Karger stated "Congratulations New York for leading the way. You sent a powerful message to the world. We are all equal!"
  • Former New York governor and state senator David Paterson praised the vote, saying "Tonight, I am ecstatic, I am elated, and I am proud to be a New Yorker." He also reciprocated accolades offered to him by Cuomo and referred to his own 2008 directive to recognize out-of-state marriages.[33]

Town clerk resignations

Two town clerks, one in Barker and another in Granby, resigned citing their moral and religious objections to signing marriage certificates for same-sex couplees.[34] For the same reason, a clerk in Guilderland announced she would continue in her position but would no longer officiate at any weddings, allowing another official to do so in her stead.[35] The town clerk of Volney said she will not sign marriage certificates for same-sex couples unless forced to do so.[36] Kathleen Rice, the district attorney for Nassau County, warned all town clerks within her jurisdiction they could face criminal charges if any refused to perform their duties with respect to same-sex marriages.[37]

Media personalities

  • Musician and New York native Lady Gaga, who had personally lobbied senators and had urged fans of her music to call or write their senators, stated on Twitter that "The revolution is ours to fight for love, justice+equality. Rejoice NY, and propose. We did it!!!"[28][38]
  • Wendy Williams posted to Twitter "Yay for Gay Marriage! NY, it's about time... jersey we're next! How you doin?"[28]
  • Cyndi Lauper stated that "I have never be[sic] prouder to be a lifelong New Yorker than I am today with the passage of marriage equality.[26] "
  • Country music singer Blake Shelton, previously the subject of a controversial misunderstanding on a comment about sexual advances by gay men,[39] responded to a Twitter follower's question if Shelton was "happy gays can get married in new york now?” with the response, "Yes.. I'm very gay about it!!"[40][41]
  • Star Trek actor and California resident George Takei, who, with his husband Brad Altman, owns an apartment in New York City, said that "good waves coming from New York is going to make a profound influence on our situation here." Takei and Altman are among 18,000 same-sex couples who were married in California during the 2008 window period prior to the passage of Proposition 8 by referendum.[42]
  • At the 2011 BET Awards, Kerry Washington compared the situation to earlier prohibitions on interracial marriage, saying "we have to be very careful about legislating love in this country. If we say that people of a certain sexual orientation can't be married, we might go back to saying that people of different races can't be married. And we can't afford to do that."[42]

Polling on same-sex marriage

Following the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, a Marist Poll reported that 55% of New York adults support the legalization of same-sex marriage, and 63% don't want the law overturned.[43]


Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Democrat and the most prominent opponent of the Act, announced at a rally on July 24, 2011, that he would file a lawsuit alleging that the same-sex marriages performed on that day were illegal. Diaz said the lawsuit would challenge judicial waivers that allowed a same-sex couple to marry on the same day they applied for a marriage license.[44]

On July 25, 2011, the organization New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, along with the Liberty Counsel, filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court against the New York Senate and other state offices seeking an injunction against the Act. The lawsuit alleges that:[45][46]

  • Bloomberg held a closed-door meeting with all of New York's Republican senators in violation of New York's open meetings law.
  • Bloomberg promised to make large campaign contributions to any Republican senator who voted for the Act.
  • Cuomo waived the constitutionally mandated three-day review period before a vote without justification.
  • Lobbyists and the public were denied access to the Senate lobby and to members of the legislature.
  • Senate voting procedures were suspended to prevent senators opposed to the bill from speaking.
  • Senators failed to follow Senate procedures that require that bills be sent to appropriate committees before consideration by the full Senate.


  1. ^ a b Hakim, Danny (2011-06-25). "Exemptions Were Key to Vote on Gay Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  2. ^ KEEPING HIS VOW: Man invites same-sex couples to wed at his Kingston chapel Daily Freeman, July 23, 2011
  3. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (July 7, 2006). "New York to Back Same-Sex Unions From Elsewhere". The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Chris Michaud (June 20, 2011). "Same-sex marriage goes down to legislative wire in New York". Reuters. 
  6. ^ a b "Bills". Retrieved August 14, 2008. 
  7. ^ N.Y. Assembly passes same-sex marriage legislation
  8. ^ State Senate Delays Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill
  9. ^ unknown (December 2, 2009). "State Assembly Vote Tally". Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  10. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (December 2, 2009). "New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill". The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  11. ^ Paterson Introduces a Same-Sex Marriage Bill
  12. ^ a b Nicholas Confessore and Michael Barbaro (June 13, 2011). "Once Against Gay Marriage, 4 Senators Say They Will Back It". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Gay Marriage Bill Is One Vote Shy of Clearing State Senate
  14. ^ Casey Seiler, Capitol bureau chief (June 13, 2011). "Diaz pulling out of minority caucus". Times Union. 
  15. ^ Staten Island's state Sen. Andrew Lanza to vote against gay marriage
  16. ^ New York Assembly backs gay marriage, Senate showdown next
  17. ^ A8520-2011: Relates to the ability to marry; amends a chapter of the laws of 2011, as proposed in legislative bill number A. 8354, in relation to the statutory construction of such chapter
  18. ^ International Business Times: "New York Senate Passes Chapter Amendment," June 24, 2011, accessed June 25, 2011
  19. ^ New York Times: Nicholas Confessore and Michael Barbaro, "New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law," June 24, 2011, accessed June 25, 2011
  21. ^ "History in the Making: New York To Become Seventh U.S. Jurisdiction Allowing Gay and Lesbian Couples to Marry". Human Rights Campaign. 2011-06-24. 
  22. ^ a b Sandhya Somashekhar (June 24, 2011). "New York legalizes same-sex marriage in win for gay rights advocates". The Washington Post. 
  23. ^ NOM: "The National Organization for Marriage Launches Mailers Into The Districts of Seven GOP and Democratic Senators Who Betrayed Voters on Marriage", accessed July 26, 2011
  24. ^ New York’s Approval of Same-Sex Marriage Spurs Opponents for New Fights
  25. ^ Wedding Crashers
  26. ^ a b "Cuomo signs NY gay-marriage bill". MSNBC. 2011-06-25 at 4:54:44. 
  27. ^ "UUA President Rev. Peter Morales Applauds New York Marriage Equality Vote". Unitarian Universalist Association. June 25, 2011. 
  28. ^ a b c Karen Zraick (June 24, 2011). "NYers celebrate historic vote for gay marriage". Associated Press. 
  29. ^ Christine Quinn (June 25, 2011). "Statement of speaker christine c. quinn on state senate passage of marriage equality legislation". 
  30. ^ Chris Johnson (June 25, 2011). "White House Responds To Passage Of N.Y. Marriage Bill". Washington Blade. 
  31. ^ a b "New York Gay Marriage Bill Passes State Senate, Prompting Outpouring Of Reaction (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. 06-24-11 11:25 PM. 
  32. ^ Gavin Newsom. "Statement by Gavin Newsom".!/GavinNewsom/status/84451443393826818. 
  33. ^ Celeste Katz (JUNE 24, 2011). "Paterson Returns To Praise Senate Marriage Vote". New York Daily News. 
  34. ^ 2nd town clerk quits over gay marriage. WIVB-TV. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  35. ^ Town clerk: I do not do 'I do'. Times Union. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  36. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth. Carlucci: Town clerks should enforce law. State of Politics. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  37. ^ Paybarah, Azi (8 July 2011). "Nassau DA: Denying Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples Could Be Criminal". New York Observer. "Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County District Attorney who ran as a tough, law-and-order attorney general candidate last year, is warning clerks they could face “criminal prosecution” if they refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples after July 24." 
  38. ^ "Some celebrity quotes on NY's new gay marriage law". Associated Press. Sat Jun 25, 2:15 am ET. 
  39. ^ "GLAAD Targets 'Voice' Judge Blake Shelton for 'Anti-Gay' Tweet". The Hollywood Reporter. May 5, 2011. Archived from the original on June 25, 1011. "GLAAD is calling on country singer Blake Shelton, a judge on NBC’s The Voice, to apologize after a violent, anti-gay Tweet was sent from his Twitter account overnight. Shelton apparently had been Tweeting about re-writing lyrics to the Shania Twain song, “Any Man of Mine”. [...]But on his Twitter page Shelton wrote: "Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song.. Any man that tries Touching my behind He's gonna be a beaten, bleedin', heaving kind of guy..."" 
  40. ^ Shelton, Blake (June 24, 2011). "Twitter - Blake Shelton".!/blakeshelton/status/84490042214596609. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  41. ^ LaSimone, Ashley (June 24, 2011). "New York Legalizes Gay Marriage: Country Stars React on Twitter". Taste of Country. Archived from the original on June 25, 2011. 
  42. ^ a b "Mega-Mysteries on the Casey Anthony Trial; Explosive Bristol Palin Bombshell; Jennifer Aniston`s Love Confession; J-Lo`s Future on "American Idol"". CNN. June 27, 2011. 
  43. ^ Majority Supports Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage…63% Want Law to Remain in Place
  44. ^ Christian Post: Debbie Cohen, "Same-Sex Marriage in NY Illegal, Says Senator Ruben Diaz", accessed August 2, 2011
  45. ^ CNN: Lawsuit filed over New York same-sex marriage law, accessed August 3, 2011
  46. ^ NYCF Files Suit Against State Senate, accessed August 3, 2011

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