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Strongest Sign Yet: Cuomo Sends Bill to Lawmakers

Strongest Sign Yet: Cuomo Sends Bill to Lawmakers


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo submitted a marriage equality bill for consideration by the legislature on Tuesday afternoon, a strong sign that he and advocates feel confident about the measure passing.

As a program bill, the Marriage Equality Act requires three days to age before it will be live and ready to receive a vote, where the legislative session is scheduled to end on Monday. The Marriage Equality Act would take effect 30 days after it became law.

According to the news release from the governor's office, the bill makes exemptions for religious institutions, which appears to accommodate undecided Republican state senators, most notably Greg Ball, who have suggested their support may depend the inclusion of such carve-outs. Having publicly picked up its first Republican vote on Monday, along with three undecided Democrats, the bill needs two more votes, which must come from the Republican conference, to reach the 32 required to pass the senate.

"To ensure that the bill does not intrude into matters of religious belief, the Marriage Equality Act affirms that no member of the clergy can be compelled to solemnize any marriage," said the announcement. "This bill grants equal access to the government-created legal institution of civil marriage while leaving the religious institution of marriage to its own separate and fully autonomous sphere. The bill also guarantees that religious institutions and benevolent organizations such as the Knights of Columbus remain free to choose who may use their facilities for marriage ceremonies and celebrations or to whom they provide religious services, consistent with their religious principles."

In the announcement, as he has in previous statements, Cuomo positioned the Marriage Equality Act as a long overdue next step in the long history of civil rights advances nurtured in New York.

"From the fight for women's suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind," he said. "For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state - not of religion or culture. When it comes to fighting for what's right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and marriage equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story."

Cuomo has said that he and the coalition of advocates working to pass the bill did not want to hold a vote on a measure that would fail, which makes the delivery of the bill an indication of their confidence. The presence of the bill also shows their seriousness to Republican senators, who will likely conference the measure on Wednesday. Majority leader Dean Skelos, an opponent of the bill, has said that he would recommend it come to the floor for a vote pending consultation with his Republican members.

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Julie Bolcer