New York Governor Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill Into Law; Supporters Rejoice

BY Jenny Marder  June 25, 2011 at 2:22 PM EDT

Updated 4:51 p.m. ET

Celebrations erupted in the streets of New York on Friday, after a late night vote in the state legislature sent a same-sex marriage bill to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign into law. The move is seen as a major victory for the gay rights movement, and makes New York state the sixth and most populous in the nation to permit same-sex marriage.

Watch video of the final moments before the vote in the New York legislature:


The mood was euphoric as crowds screamed, danced, cheered and embraced near Sheridan Square’s Stonewall Inn, where the city’s gay rights movement began 40 years ago, The New York Times reported.

Barring any court challenges, the law will go into effect in late July. Gays and lesbians can also legally wed in Connecticut, Iowa Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia. Activists hope that the vote will convince more politicians and judges, according to the Associated Press.

The New York state Senate passed the legislation with a vote of 33-29 after days of negotiations and role reversals, with four Republicans breaking with their party to support the bill. All but one Democrat supported it. The bill was approved last week by the Democratic-controlled assembly.

The governor had pledged in his fall campaign to fight for gay marriage, and was part of an intense public and private lobbying campaign. The lobbying was done “the Cuomo way: with meticulous, top-down coordination,” according to the New York Times:

Five groups pushing for same-sex marriage merged into a single coalition, hired a prominent consultant with ties to Mr. Cuomo’s office, Jennifer Cunningham, and gave themselves a new name: New Yorkers United for Marriage.

“This state, when it is at its finest, is a beacon for social justice,” Cuomo said on Friday after the vote. “And what this state said today brings this discussion of marriage equality to a new plain. We reached a new level of social justice this evening.”

Opponents have spent millions of dollars on the fight , the Washington Post reports, and pledged political retribution against those Republicans who backed it.

The Wall Street Journal also details the strategy that supporters of the bill employed to ensure its passage. A similar bill was rejected by New York lawmakers in 2009.

Advocates credit their victory to the clout of a popular governor and to show of unity of a movement that at times had fallen victim to clashes of ego and tactics.

Since their loss in 2009, gay activists raised money to help unseat three lawmakers opposed to gay marriage and replace them with senators who pledged their support for the bill. And when Republicans took back the chamber last year, advocates recruited a team of veteran Republican strategists close to the conference and drew financial support from wealthy Republican businessmen allied with the movement.

WNYC has more on local reaction in New York to the news, as well as a timeline of gay marriage in the state.