Friday, June 24, 2011
Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Marriage Equality Act".
S 2. Legislative intent. Marriage is a fundamental human right. Same
couples should have the same access as others to the protections ;responsibilities, rights, obligations, and benefits of civil marriage. Stable family relationships help build a stronger society. For the welfare of the community and in fairness to all New Yorkers, this act formally recognizes otherwise-valid marriages without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex. It is the intent of the legislature that the marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples be treated equally in all respects under the law. The omission from this act of changes to other provisions of law shall not be construed as a legislative intent to preserve any legal distinction between same-sex couples and different-sex couples with respect to marriage. The legislature intends that all provisions of law which utilize gender-specific terms in reference to the parties to a marriage, or which in any other way may be inconsistent with this act be construed in a gender-neutral manner or in any way necessary to effectuate the intent of this act.
S 3. The domestic relations law is amended by adding two new sections 10-a and 10-b:
S 10-a. Parties to a marriage.
1. A marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex.
2. No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage, whether deriving from statute, administrative or court rule, public policy common law or any other source of law, shall differ based on the parties the marriage being or having been of the same sex rather than a different sex. When necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses under the law, all gender-specific language or terms shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner in all such sources of law.
S10-b is the religious exemptions and nonseverability amendments here. In an interesting move, the Senate voted on the amendments before voting on the bill. A few Senators mentioned the importance of the religious exemptions in determining their affirmative votes.
The bill passed by a narrow margin in the Republican-controlled Senate. Senator Steven Saland was one of the deciding votes and his statement is here. Governor Cuomo, who actively supported the bill, is expected to sign it. [update: Cuomo signed bill]. New York will then become the sixth state in the United States that currently recognizes same-sex marriage as a legal relationship. New York would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa, as well as the District of Columbia. California and Maine had legal same-sex marriage for a limited time; California's Proposition 8 limiting marriage to opposite sex couples was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, but that ruling was stayed and the case is presently on appeal.