The bill to permit same sex marriage was formally introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday June 15, 2011 and passed by the State Assembly a day later. The bill provides the same legal rights for same-sex couples who marry as heterosexual couples. It also prohibits local clerks from nixing marriage license applications from gay couples.

Thirty one members of the Senate, including two Republicans, have already voted in favor of the bill. In order to officially be approved, there is only one more vote needed. This is the closest New York has come to making same sex marriage legal because of its failure to pass the Senate in recent years. Passing of the bill will make New York the 6th largest state in the United States to legalize gay marriage and add fuel to the ongoing debate.

While many religious leaders including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York have continued to speak out against gay marriage and campaign against legislation, Cuomo is working to find a balance between the principles of the state and those of religious institutions.

Republicans are reversing their opposition but have asked that Mr. Cuomo agree to amend the proposal and give greater protection to religious organizations. The bill will exempt religious institutions from any obligation to sanctify or provide facilities for same-sex weddings. It will also protect them from any repercussions from state agencies.

Governor Cuomo recently stated €œThis state has a proud tradition and a proud legacy as the progressive capital of the nation. We led the way, and it′s time for New York to lead the way once again.€ This year more celebrities, renowned business and political leaders are showing support and advocating gay marriage. The governor and the Republicans described negotiations as cordial and productive and expect to extend the duration of the regular legislative session.

Image Courtesy of  http://www.flickr.com/photos/seeminglee/