Sunday, June 26, 2011

Historic vote to legalize gay marriage in New York State may have ripple effect across country

Sunday, June 26th 2011, 4:00 AM

New Yorkers rejoice over historic passage of gay marriage law in the state.
Jefferson Siegel for News
New Yorkers rejoice over historic passage of gay marriage law in the state.
Shira Kline and Hanna Cheek celebrate same-sex marriage law.
Jefferson Siegel for News
Shira Kline and Hanna Cheek celebrate same-sex marriage law.

The historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage in New York is expected to bring up to an extra 1 million jubilant marchers to Sunday's Pride parade - and it may set off a national ripple effect.

The bill's passage late Friday sparked celebrations throughout the city that will reach their crescendo on Sunday afternoon as a record crowd shimmies its way down Fifth Ave. and into the West Village, rejoicing in their newfound rights.


"It's going to be truly historic," said Chris Frederick, director of Heritage of Pride, which organizes the march. "It's going to harken back to the first march back in 1970. I'd expect between 500,000 to a million more. What I foresee happening, people are going to come from all over the Northeast corridor. People are really revved up to show support for this bill passing.

"I think there's going to be so much joy in the air," he said. "It's going to be just really exciting."

The march, the conclusion of the city's annual Pride Week, could be the final part of a powerful message sent from the halls of Albany, which many activists feel could quickly spread throughout the land.

"[New York] is a big win that gives us huge momentum," said Brian Ellner, of the Human Rights Coalition, who said advocates would next focus on Maryland, Rhode Island and Maine.

New York became the sixth state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage only after four Republican state senators defied their party and voted in favor of the marriage equality bill - which could serve as a blueprint for other states, Ellner said. "It's going to take a bipartisan coalition to get it done, whether it's most statehouses or Congress."

Gov. Cuomo, who received national accolades for steering the bill to victory, used his political popularity as a mandate and relentlessly lobbied Republican senators, leading to the eventual 33-29 margin.

Cuomo spoke candidly about how his own views changed - he formerly just supported civil unions, not gay marriage - and predicted that President Obama may follow suit.

"I think you are going to see an evolution toward this position on all levels," Cuomo said. "New York made a powerful statement, not just for the people of New York, but people all across this nation."

Obama enthusiastically addressed an LGBT conference in the city on Thursday but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage, saying it was an issue for state governments to decide. Some political observers have theorized the President will endorse the measure after the 2012 election.

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