Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell was the prime sponsor of legislation that passed in the Assembly today that will allow New York State to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Introduced in the Assembly on May 21, 2007, the Marriage Equality Act (A.8590) had a record 56 sponsors and it garnered a ground-breaking 85 votes on the floor. Two same-sex marriage bills have been introduced this session in the Senate; no movement of either is expected this session.
The Marriage Equality Act represents a significant step towards establishing equal civil rights for gay and lesbian couples in New York State. Legal marriage confers over 1,300 state rights and responsibilities, which current law does not allow same-sex couples to assume.
Upon Governor Eliot Spitzer’s historic introduction of his program bill, Spitzer announced, “Strong, stable families are the cornerstones of our society. The responsibilities inherent in the institution of marriage benefit those individuals and society as a whole.”
The legislation establishes equal responsibilities, recognition, benefits, and protections for all married couples, regardless of the sex of the parties to a civil marriage. In consideration of the religious beliefs of clergy members, the bill also provides that no clergy member or religious institution would be compelled to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. Under current law, partners unable to enter into a civil marriage – and their children – lack legal protections taken for granted by married couples and their children in such areas as property ownership, inheritance, health care, hospital visitation, taxation, insurance coverage, and pension benefits.
Assembly Member O’Donnell will now focus his energy on the continuing struggle for equal rights for LGBT citizens. “The Assembly’s passage of this legislation represents both a personal and professional victory for me,” O’Donnell said. “Once the Marriage Equality bill passes in the Senate and is signed into law, I will be able to marry my partner of 26 years. Thousands of other couples like us will also be allowed not only to celebrate their legal commitment, but also to ensure that each partner, and their children, will be protected in the case of illness, death, or the difficult times from which no family is exempt. Marriage Equality is essential to the stability of New York’s lesbian and gay couples and their children.”