New York State Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill

June 24, 2011 6:34 p.m.

The New York state Senate has approved the marriage equality bill by a vote of 33-29.

An amendment to the bill, which carved out exemptions for religious groups, passed by a vote of 36-26.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: NYC Celebrates After Marriage Equality Passes The State Senate]The New York Assembly had passed the amendment earlier Friday evening by a vote of 82-47. There was a lot of suspense leading up to the vote in the Senate, as only 31 lawmakers of the necessary 32 officially announced ahead of the vote that they would support the bill if it was taken up.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) had been negotiating with legislators all week over the language of the bill, even though the legislative session was supposed to have ended Monday. The negotiations centered on a number of Republicans who were pushing for amendments that carved out more specific exemptions for religious groups. Friday afternoon an agreement was reached on the final language.

Republican Sen. Stephen Saland, who had been undecided about the bill and was one of the legislators who led the negotiations, announced during the debate on the Senate floor that he would support the bill, effectively giving it the 32 votes it needed to pass.

Saland said in his speech that the new language would ensure that “conflicts [were] resolved in favor of religious exemptions.” He added that people on both sides of the debate had contacted him and asked him to “do the right thing.”

“My intellectual and emotion journey has ended here today,” Saland said, “and I have to find doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes within the definition of marriage. And I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing.”

Sen. Ruben Diaz (D), a staunch opponent of gay marriage, slammed the Republicans for becoming “a tool of the Democratic Party” and allowing the vote to go through. “It is the Republican Party that will provide the vote to pass this legislation,” he said.

“I am probably voting no,” Diaz said.

Thomas Duane (D), the only openly gay member of the Senate, teared up during his remarks, and thanked Gov. Cuomo “for his incredible, and just truthful and strong leadership on this issue.”

“I know this is a tough vote,” Duane said. “There are only heroes in this chamber today, there are no villains.”

Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti, who was previously undecided, announced he would vote for the bill: “I cannot legally come up with an argument against same sex marriage.”

“I cannot deny a human being … the same rights that I had with my wife,” said Grisanti.

Sen. Carl Kruger (D), who voted “no” when a similar bill came up in 2009, said he would support the bill. “Tonight is a reaffirmation of what a family is,” he said, and today “we have brought a bill to our the floor that is worthy to consider.”

The bill will now head to Gov. Cuomo for signing.

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