Tuesday, June 19, 2007

NY State Assembly approves gay marriage bill

New York's state Assembly approves gay marriage bill

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
ALBANY, New York: New York's state Assembly approved legislation to legalize same-sex marriage after an emotional three-hour debate, but the bill is not expected to be acted on any time soon in the Republican-led state Senate.

The legislation, sponsored by Democrat Daniel O'Donnell, the gay brother of entertainer Rosie O'Donnell and backed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, was approved Tuesday 85-61 in the Democratic Assembly.

O'Donnell told his colleagues that civil unions were not an adequate substitute for full marriage.

"It will not provide equality for people like me," he said.

But Republican Assemblyman Brian Kolb, taking note of "the nuns who taught me in grammar school" and his marriage in the Catholic Church, said he could not support the move.

"I do feel threatened. I do feel harmed," he said. "It's a direct challenge to me and how I was brought up."

Same-sex marriage is legal only in Massachusetts. The California Legislature approved a measure to allow gay marriage in 2005, but it was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A handful of U.S. states allow civil unions or similar arrangements.

New York state does not currently allow civil unions.

"We not doing gay marriage by Thursday that's for sure, or this year," Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno declared Tuesday morning as lawmakers wound down their annual legislative session, which is due to wrap up on Thursday. The bill would also need to be approved by the Senate to become law.

New Yorkers are split over the gay marriage issues. A statewide poll out Tuesday from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found 35 percent of registered voters supported gay marriage while another 35 percent supported civil unions but not same-sex marriage. Twenty-two percent of voters said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex unions.

As the voting ended on Tuesay, openly gay Democrat Matthew Titone rose with his cell phone in his hand.

"I have my partner here on the phone and he just asked me to marry him," Titone told the chamber.

"My answer, Madam Speaker, is yes," said Titone to a round of applause.

O'Donnell said that he had high hopes the Senate, and Bruno, would eventually come around.

"I'm hopeful he can be educated," the assemblyman said.

O'Donnell said he and his partner of 26 years, John Banta, director of special events for the American Ballet Theatre, were looking forward to the day when the measure might be signed into law.

"We would get married tomorrow, if we could," O'Donnell said.

As the Assembly prepared to debate the measure, New York's Roman Catholic bishops issued a statement in opposition.

"The Catholic Church teaches that we treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with dignity and love ... However, marriage is not some political term of art that can be re-imagined or redefined according to the whims of popular culture," said a statement issued by the New York State Catholic Conference, the church's lobbying arm.

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