April 15, 2009 / 11:25 PM / 9 years ago

NY governor to unveil bill to legalize gay marriage

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor David Paterson will introduce legislation on Thursday to make gay marriage legal, but the move faces an uncertain vote in the state’s Senate.

<p>Sharon Papo (R) and her partner Amber Weiss display their wedding rings after exchanging wedding vows at City Hall on the first full day of legal same-sex marriages in San Francisco, California June 17, 2008. REUTERS/Erin Siegal</p>

If the bill passes, New York would follow Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage.

“The timing was always right,” said Paterson, a Democrat -- who ordered all New York state agencies a year ago to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. “It’s just who is willing to take that step, and I am.”

Gay marriage has broad support in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, where it passed in a vote of 85 to 61 in 2007. It was never put to a vote in the Senate while it was controlled by Republicans.

While the Democrats now hold a Senate majority for the first time in more than 40 years, it is slim -- 32 to 30 -- and at least one Democratic senator, Ruben Diaz, opposes gay marriage. He says the issue should be decided by a voter referendum.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Maine, which already offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition, are also considering bills to allow gay marriage.

California briefly recognized gay marriage until voters banned it in a referendum last year.

Forty-three U.S. states have laws explicitly prohibiting gay marriage, including 29 with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols

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