Marriage Equality Act passes in historic 33-29 vote

August 21, 2011 8:00 PM



On Friday, June 24, 2011, the New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act, voting 33-29 to allow same sex marriages in our state. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law at 11:55 pm, enabling it to become law within an hour and a half of the Senate approving it. The law became effective 30 days later, at midnight of July 24.

New York is now the sixth and largest state to recognize same sex marriages. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire have already passed similar legislation, and so has the District of Columbia. At a time when human and civil rights have been undermined on a broad front in the United States by right-wing attacks, New York's Marriage Equality Act is one of the few examples of significant progress.

Our union has been a strong supporter of this important piece of equal rights legislation. Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward spoke with key senators about the Marriage Equality Act and urged them to vote to approve it. He also issued a statement saying:


Passage of marriage equality legislation is way overdue in New York State and it is time for senators to act on this and do the right thing. We have a long history of supporting progressive issues and we believe that all loving and committed New Yorkers should have the freedom to marry the person they love.


HTC had demonstrated its commitment to equal rights for same sex partners early on. During the contract fight of 1995, our union fought for and won the extension of employer-funded family medical and dental coverage to the domestic partners of HTC-represented workers. At that time, domestic partner benefits of any kind remained relatively rare, and our domestic partner benefits were particularly unusual in that they covered same-sex domestic partners, not just those of the opposite sex.

The enactment of New York's Marriage Equality Act is a historically significant victory as it is the first such bill to be passed by a Republican-controlled state legislature. Four Republicans joined with 29 Democrats in voting in favor of the bill, which could not have passed without some Republican support. The four Republican senators who cast the critically important "yes" votes are Representatives James S. Alesi, Stephen M. Saland, Roy J. McDonald, and Mark Grisanti.

The vote was the subject of a rare banner headline in the June 25 New York Times, and its front page story detailed the events which produced this major victory for equal rights in our state. When the last vote was cast and the outcome announced, cheers Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy could not gavel down rang out. They were punctuated with repeated shouts of "Thank you! Thank you!" from those in the galleries a novelty since state legislatures throughout the country have been ringing with shouts of anger from demonstrators protesting legislators attacks on working people.

Sunday, July 24, was the first day marriages could be performed under the new law. Hundreds of happy and excited couples, from New York and other states as well, exchanged wedding vows. Many had waited for years, some for decades, to be able to marry the person they loved all the while fearing that day might never come. Their joy that it finally has is evident in the touching photos and videos that appeared in the New York Times.

Commenting on the new law, Juana Velez, a housekeeping supervisor at the Helmsley New York, said, "All people should have this right to marry. Same sex partners are human, like we are, and should have the same rights we do. I'm so proud of New York State for doing this, and it shows what the people can do when they organize and participate in an organized way in politics."

Karlin, Rick. Gay marriage postcards and hotel workers. Capitol Blog, Albany Times Union. June 3, 2011.

Confessore, Nicholas and Barbaro, Michael. New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law. New York Times. June 25, 2011.

Barbaro, Michael. After Long Wait, Same-Sex Couples Marry in New York. New York Times. July 25, 2011.

Portraits from the New York City Marriage Bureau. New York Times. July 24, 2011.

A Gay Wedding Album. New York Times.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Belmonte