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Gay parade marks win for marriage rights in N.Y.

- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thousands of gay men and women and their allies marched joyfully through Manhattan on Sunday, celebrating New York state's new law allowing same-sex marriage and pledging to push the issue nationwide.

"New York has sent a message to the nation. ... It's time for marriage equality," Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said before the 42nd annual LGBT Pride March started down Fifth Avenue.

Mr. Cuomo signed the gay-marriage into law late Friday night after the Republican-led state Senate voted 33-29 to pass it. His signature making gay marriage effective in 30 days fulfilled a campaign promise, and thousands of grateful parade revelers held signs saying, "Thank you, Gov. Cuomo" and "Promise kept."

Gay-marriage proponents hailed the New York vote as a sign that victory will soon be coast to coast.

New York's vote was a "watershed moment," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. The "momentum coming from New York's giant step forward brings a nationwide end to marriage discrimination closer than ever," he said.

"New York sends the message that marriage equality across the country is a question of 'when' not 'if,' " said Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz.

Even the White House will be included in the surge: GetEqual has a Twitter campaign and video on YouTube urging President Obama to "EvolveAlready" and support marriage, not just civil unions, for gay couples.

However, groups that support marriage only between one man and one woman said they are not giving up.

Gay marriage passed in New York because four Republican state senators voted for it, including some who previously said they didn't support it, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

NOM is pledging $2 million to "make sure that New York Republicans understand that voting for gay marriage has consequences," said Mr. Brown, adding that NOM will also push for a constitutional amendment to allow the people of New York to vote on marriage.

The Catholic Church is another prime opponent of the legalizing of gay marriage. In their conferences with lawmakers last week, Catholic leaders stressed that while they love and value gay people, gay-marriage laws can affect the church's ability to operate and coordinate with the state on its charities and other programs.

The Conservative Party of New York State called the vote "a disaster for the future." Michael Long, chairman of the party, has told Republican lawmakers that they forfeit his party's endorsement if they support gay marriage. His words carry weight because Republicans need Conservative Party support to win statewide office.

Friday's gay-marriage vote capped a week of politicking, in which all eyes were focused on whether Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos would actually allow the bill to come to a vote before the session adjourned.

The battle came down to a few wavering Republicans, who found themselves under heavy pressure from both sides. Much of the last-minute bargaining, often with Mr. Cuomo, focused on whether the bill provided sufficient protections for religious organizations that oppose gay marriage.

In voting for gay marriage, freshman Republican Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, a Catholic trial lawyer, said he could not legally come up with a reason against gay marriage. He apologized to supporters who expected him to vote against it.

The "Marriage Equality Act," which passed the state Assembly on June 15, amends state law to say that "a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex." It protects religious organizations and clergy from being forced to accommodate requests related to same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

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