Thursday, April 16, 2009

Paterson introduces marriage bill

Less than two weeks after Vermont lawmakers secured marriage for same-sex couples, New York Gov. David Paterson has introduced legislation that would allow gay and lesbian New Yorkers to marry.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Paterson, lawmakers and activists at today's announcement.

"Marriage equality is about basic civil rights and personal freedom," Paterson said. "Too many individuals face legal discrimination every single day. Too many loving families do not receive the legal recognition they deserve. Anyone who has ever faced intolerance of any kind knows the solemn importance of protecting the rights of all people. That is why we stand together today to embrace civil rights for every New Yorker. We stand together today for marriage equality in the State of New York."

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced an identical bill in 2007. The state Assembly passed it while then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] blocked it in the state Senate.

Paterson issued an executive order last May that mandated state agencies to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally performed in other jurisdictions. Activists in New York were quick to applaud the governor after today's announcement.

"We very much appreciate Governor Paterson introducing a marriage equality program bill into the legislature and continuing the momentum that has been growing on this important issue over the past several weeks," Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle said in a statement. "For a long time the governor has been a vocal advocate for passing legislation that would provide same-sex couples and our families the 1,324 rights and responsibilities that come with a New York State marriage license.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese agreed.

"The introduction of marriage equality legislation is a strong statement by Governor Paterson and we applaud him for standing today in support of all loving and committed couples throughout New York," he said.

It remains unclear whether the bill has enough votes in the legislature, but some observers have noted Paterson's decision to introduce it is a political gamble. Others, such as state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., have vowed to fight it.

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