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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State

Quotations, timeline, introduction & suggestions

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bullet "If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.
bullet "A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.

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Timeline leading to SSM in New York State:

bullet Early 2004: There were a number of attempts to solemnize the marriages of same-sex couples. None of the marriages was ever recognized and registered by the state. Several misdemeanor charges were laid against those officiating. All charges were dismissed.

bullet 2006-MAY: the New York Court of Appeals heard from a total of 44 couples requesting the right to marry. In 2006-JUL, the court found that same-sex couples in New York had no constitutional right to marriage, but that the legislature could legalize SSM if it wished.

bullet 2007-APR-27: Governor Eliot Spitzer introduced a bill to legalize SSM in the Assembly and Senate. It did not become law
bullet 2008-FEB-01: A New York state appeals court ruled unanimously that same-sex marriages legally contracted out of state, including Canada, must be recognized by the state. The case involved a lesbian couple who went to Canada, became married, returned to their home in New York state, and were refused recognition of their marriage.

bullet 2008-MAY-14: New York State Governor David Paterson instructed state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages that have legally been performed in other jurisdictions.

bullet 2008-SEP-03: The fundamentalist Christian Alliance Defense Fund did not succeed in its courts challenge of state recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.
bullet 2009-APR-16: Governor David Paterson announced that he will introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.

bullet 2009-MAY-12: SSM bill passes the Assembly by a vote of 89 to 54 (62% in favor).

bullet 2009-JUN-24: SSM is considered by the Senate. No action was taken.

bullet 2009-AUG-27: A metastudy on public support for same-sex marriage is published in the American Political Science Review. It revealed that support for SSM in New York state was 34% circa 1995 -- the highest of any state in the U.S. at the time. By 2003/2004, this had risen to 43%. By 2008/9 to 52%. The average rate of increase in support was about 1.3 percentage points per year. More details This compares with about 0.9 percentage point per year for the nearest comparable trend: support for interracial marriage during the interval 1967 to 1991.

bullet 2009-DEC-02: A poll indicated 9 percentage points spread in favor of SSM by registered voters: 51% in favor; 42% opposed; 7% don't know or didn't respond.

bullet 2009-DEC-02: Senate ignores wishes of the citizens and defeats SSM bill by a vote of 38 against to 24 for. All of the 30 Republican Senators voted against the bill, along with eight Democrats.

bullet 2010-NOV-02 -- Election day: Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo (D) is a strong supporter of marriage equality.

bullet 2011-APR-06: Poll of New York state voters shows unusually high support for SSM: 58% among all voters, 65% among Democrats, 74% among voters 18 to 34 years of age, 58% among Roman Catholics and 78% among non-Judeo-Christians. Only 36% of adults are opposed to SSM. More details.

bullet 2011-APR-29: A group of 26 senior CEO's in New York state released a letter appealing to the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. They wrote: "As New Yorkers and business leaders, we believe that attracting talent is key to our state's economic future. We strongly urge New York State to enact marriage equality legislation to help maintain our competitive advantage in attracting the best and brightest people the world has to offer."

bullet 2011-JUN-13: For the fourth time, the New York State Assembly passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.

bullet 2011-JUN-24: With the support of a small number of Republican senators, the SSM bill was narrowly passed by the Senate that evening. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law just before midnight.

bullet 2011-JUL-24: Hundreds of same-sex couples lined up in various clerk's offices in New York City. They were able to obtain marriage licences and -- if they had a judicial waiver or had been previously married elsewhere -- they could obtain a civil marriage on the same day. Others had to wait a day. The state set up a raffle system to handle the large number of couples who wanted to get married on the very first day. The first same-sex couple to marry in Long Island was Francisco Fuertes and Patrick Simeone who had been together for 23 years. The first same-sex couple to be married in Manhattan City Clerk's Office were Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopetov, 85. Kitty Lambert, 54, and Cheryle Rudd, 53, from Buffalo, NY, were married at Niagara Falls' State Park's Luna Island, near the US-Canadian border. 1
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Overview of events during late 2011-June leading up to the signing of the bill into law on JUN-24:

The current governor, Andrew Cuomo (D), has strongly supported SSM.

The House had passed four SSM bills to date -- the most recent during 2011-JUN.

Support for SSM by the newly elected Senate was uncertain because Republicans hold control and most Republicans tend to vote as a block against all LGBT equality issues, while Democrats vote as a block in favor. The final sticking point was whether marriage-related businesses -- like wedding photographers, marriage counselors, etc. should be adequately protected from lawsuits if they decide to discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds. There is no need for the bill to contain protection for clergy, congregations and denominations who want to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry then. However, many news sources mistakingly describe this as a point of conflict. Clergy etc. have the absolute right to discriminate against same sex couples in marriage because of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As the final vote in the Senate approached, tensions were heightened. Some Internet postings became ugly.

The vote was finally held by the Senate during the evening of Friday, 2011-JUN-24. The bill was passed 33 to 29.

Governor Cuomo (D) enthusiastically signed the bill at 11:15 PM on Friday, JUN-24. It became effective on 2011-JUL-24.

Because of the large population and influence of New York State, approval of SSM in the state is expected to give a major boost to the drive for LGBT equality nationally.

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Are you planning on marrying your same-sex partner in New York?

The law will take effect on 2011-JUL-24. That date falls on a Sunday. The clerk's offices in New York City, Woodstock, and some other localities are expected to be open that day. Most same-sex couples will probably have to wait at least until the next day to obtain their marriage licenses from their town or city clerk. JUL-25 is probably going to be a bit of a disaster as tens of thousands of New Yorkers saturate the processing facilities. If you are not in a hurry, it might be better to wait a few days.

There are no residency requirements in New York states for couples who wish to marry. Couples must normally wait a minimum of 24 hours after obtaining their license before marrying. This delay can be set aside by a judge.

More information can be found at the essay "Getting Married in New York State" by the New York Department of Health.

You have our best wishes for a long and emotionally rewarding marriage.

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  1. Basil Katz and Neale Gulley, "New York begins marrying same-sex couples," IOL News, 2011-JUL-24, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > New York state > here

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Copyright 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-APR-30
Latest update: 2011-JUL-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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