UPDATE: In perhaps the greatest gay pride gesture in political history, the New York Senate tonight legalized marriage equality in the state, making it the sixth in the nation–and the largest by far–to expand the definition to include same-sex couples.
The other five states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The District of Columbia is also home to marriage equality.
The margin was narrow–four votes–as the measure gained an unexpected last minute boost from veteran Republican Sen. Stephen Saland, who voted against a similar measure in 2009. Before Saland announced his intention, the bill was one vote short of passage. In the end, just four Republicans joined 29 Democrats for passage, 33-to-29.
An earlier up vote that included strong exemptions for religious organizations in the adoption of marriage equality paved the way for Saland’s change of heart, but will have no effect on our right to marry our same-sex partners.
Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who made marriage equality one of his priorities, signed the measure just before the stroke of midnight. It will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples may begin marrying in New York by late July. Couples were already making plans by the time the governor made it official.
Passage was a major blow to the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay group headed by Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown and Robert P. George, that is the leading fundraising in opposition to marriage equality nationwide.