New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) [official website] on Friday signed legislation [A8354-2011 materials] allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state. The New York State Senate [official website] had passed the Marriage Equality Act 33-29 earlier that day following weeks of negotiations. The act eliminates any legal distinctions between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] and specifies that no clergy member will be forced to perform a marriage ceremony and that any refusing clergy member will not be subject to legal action. The New York State Assembly passed the bill [JURIST report] earlier in the month 80-63. The law will go into effect on July 25, 2011. In a press release [text], Cuomo praised the passage of the bill:
New York has finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted. With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law. With this vote, marriage equality will become a reality in our state, delivering long overdue fairness and legal security to thousands of New Yorkers.
The New York State Assembly had passed same-sex marriage bills before in 2007 and in 2009, but the bills were unable to pass the Senate [JURIST reports]. Before the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, New York recognized such marriages performed in other states. Earlier this year, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department upheld a lower court decision [JURIST reports] allowing the surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage legally performed in Canada to inherit the deceased spouse's estate. With the legislation, New York becomes the seventh US jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is also legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports].