Jerry Nathan of Albany, who married his partner in Massachusetts, called the vote “an incredible culmination of so much that’s been going on for so many years it doesn’t seem real yet.”
Ultimately, gay couples will be able to marry because of two previously undecided Republicans from upstate regions far more conservative than the New York City base of the gay rights movement.
Sen. Stephen Saland, 67, voted against a similar bill in 2009, helping kill the measure and dealing a blow to the national gay rights movement. On Friday night, gay marriage supporters wept in the Senate gallery as Saland explained how his strong, traditionally family upbringing led him to embrace legalizing gay marriage.
“While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience,” Saland, of Poughkeepsie, said in a statement to The Associated Press before the vote. “I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.”
“I apologize to those I offend,” said Grisanti, a Roman Catholic. “But I believe you can be wiser today than yesterday. I believe this state needs to provide equal rights and protections for all its residents,” he said.
A huge street party erupted outside the Stonewall Inn Friday night, with celebrants waving rainbow flags and dancing after the historic vote.
Watching the festivities from across the street was Sarah Ellis, who has been in a six-year relationship with her partner, Kristen Henderson. Ellis said the measure would enable them to get married in the fall. They have twin toddlers and live in Sea Cliff on Long Island.
“We’ve been waiting. We considered it for a long time, crossing the borders and going to other states,” said Ellis, 39. “But until the state that we live in, that we pay taxes in, and we’re part of that community, has equal rights and marriage equality, we were not going to do it.”
The bill makes New York only the third state, after Vermont and New Hampshire, to legalize marriage through a legislative act and without being forced to do so by a court.
Associated Press writers Michael Virtanen and Mike Hill in Albany and Karen Zraick in New York City contributed to this report.
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