In a victory for human rights advocates everywhere, the New York State Assembly passed the Marriage Equality Bill last night, for the fourth time.

My congressman, Jeffrey Dinowitz, expressed his support of the bill and quoted from it below.

In the bill the legislative intent is stated, in part, as follows:

“Marriage is a fundamental human right. Same-sex couples should have the same access as others to the protections, responsibilities, rights, obligations, and benefits of civil marriage. Stable family relationships help build a stronger society. For the welfare of the community and in fairness to all New Yorkers, this act formally recognizes otherwise-valid marriages without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex.

“It is the intent of the legislature that the marriages of same sex and different-sex couples be treated equally in all respects under the law.”

The next step in the bill’s journey will be to the State Senate. According to a New York Times article, as of now, 31 of the 62 State Senators have endorsed the bill, 29 of them Democrats and 2 Republicans, but Republican support is needed in order for it to pass.

Some Republican senators fear, however, that the bill will leave religious institutions which choose not to perform gay marriage ceremonies open for lawsuits. Senator Andrew J. Lanza of Staten Island, for one, said “The concern that I have expressed, and others have expressed, is that we don’t want to create a vehicle that will allow anyone to make a challenge, to erode, what I think is a fundamental American freedom, and that is the freedom of expression when it comes to religion.” Instead, the senators are calling for a rewording of the bill.

The NYT reports, however, that “The legislation already includes language that exempts broad classes of religious institutions and private benevolent organizations from hosting or recognizing gay ceremonies, while indemnifying such institutions from lawsuits.”

Governor Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bloomberg (I) have each expressed tremendous support for the bill. Bloomberg is the “biggest single donor to the Senate Republican caucus,” according to the NYT, but has also been an ardent advocate for gay marriage legislation.

The State Senate is set to vote sometime this week!

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