NEW YORK, June 25 (AFP) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill legalizing gay marriage late Friday, delivering a powerful victory for gay rights advocates in one of the most populous and influential states of the union.
Gay rights activists chanted and danced in the streets of New York city as news spread that the Republican-controlled state senate had narrowly approved the “Marriage Equality Act.”Cuomo signed the measure, which will take effect in 30 days, into law just before midnight Friday (0400 GMT).
Cheers erupted in the senate galleries in the state capital Albany when the legislators voted 33-29 to approve the measure after weeks of intense wrangling. The 29 Democratic senators were joined by four Republicans, one more than the minimum needed to get the bill approved.
Cuomo, who had lobbied hard for the measure, beamed after it was approved.
“Democracy works when the people speak. And the people spoke in volumes over these past few months. And this legislature responded this week to their calls,” Cuomo said at a press conference soon after the vote.
“What we accomplished this evening with marriage equality really in some ways brings it all home. Because this state, when it is at its finest, is a beacon for social justice,” he said.
The Democratic-majority lower house, the state assembly, approved a similar gay marriage bill on June 14, and later ratified the changes made by the senate.
The measure's approval coincides with the beginning of an annual weekend event celebrating gay pride in New York, which culminates with a giant parade on Sunday.
In Albany activists supporting and opposing the measure chanted, sang and waved placards, packing the senate galleries and demonstrated inside and outside the building.
Marc Grisanti, one of the Republican senators who voted for the measure in Albany, agonized over his vote.
“I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage,” Grisanti said as he was about to vote. And yet, “I cannot deny a person, a human being... the same rights I have with my wife,” he said.