New York State already recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states and nations. In 2009, the Assembly approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriages performed within the state. But the State Senate swiftly rejected the bill by a small margin, generally based on party lines. Earlier this month, the Assembly once again approved a similar bill legalizing same-sex civil marriages performed in New York State. The Senate is still debating and may vote as early as this Friday. For the text of the bill, check out the Assembly's website and search for Bill AO8354.
The prospects for passing the bill this year seem far greater, reflecting the results of recent polls showing 58% of New Yorkers favor extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. To find out where Hudson Heights' state representatives stand on the marriage equality bill in Albany, check out NY1's useful website. As of today, State Senator Adriano Espaillat (District 31) is in favor of the bill, through which New York would join Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, D.C., all Canadian Provinces and several other nations in recognizing same-sex marriages.
One of the primary controversies in the bill is the protection given to religious organizations that do not perform same-sex marriages or provide their facilities for such celebrations. The bill currently states, in part, "A refusal by a benevolent organization or religious corporation incorporated under the education law or the religious corporations law, to provide accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges in connection with [civil marriages] shall not create a civil claim or cause of action." In other words, religious organizations that refuse to perform or accommodate same-sex marriages cannot be sued in court or otherwise subject to legal action. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a supporter of the bill, is negotiating with senators this week to strengthen these protections and win over the last few supporters needed to pass the bill.
In Hudson Heights, the most vocal support for marriage equality comes from Temple Beth Am, located on Fort Washington Avenue. This Friday, June 24, this reformed Jewish community will hold its annual pride service with Rabbi Margaret Wenig. Rabbi Wenig has spoken previously in favor or equality for same-sex couples and continues that tradition this Friday. Statewide, the Empire State Pride Agenda is leading the effort to support the bill.
Opposition to the bill has mostly come from local religious organizations, led most vocally by Bronx Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Christian minister, and Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan. National groups opposed to extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples are also operating in the state, including the National Organization for Marriage, which has organized major opposition to same-sex marriage in other states.