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New York Assembly again passes same-sex marriage bill, stalls in Senate

The New York State Assembly [official website] passed a bill [A08354 text, materials] to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] Wednesday, but the fate of the bill is uncertain as it moves to the State Senate [official website]. The Assembly passed [press release] the Marriage Equality Act, drafted by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) [official website], Wednesday evening 80-63, sending it to the Senate. The Assembly has passed same-sex marriage bills before both in 2007 and then twice in 2009. The bill would enable same-sex couples to be married across the state and provide them with equal marriage rights to heterosexual couples. But the bill specifies that no clergy member will be forced to perform a marriage ceremony. Senate majority leader Dean Skelos (R) [official website] sent the bill to conference where it has stalled. Skelos controls whether the bill will come to the Senate floor for a vote. It is unclear whether the bill has enough votes in the Senate to pass.

Though New York has yet to legalize same-sex marriage it does recognize such marriages performed in other states and has previously considered legalizing it. Earlier this year, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department [official website] 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. Former New York governor David Paterson (D) [official profile] introduced same-sex marriage legislation in April 2009, and in May 2008, issued a mandate [JURIST report], requiring that any and all out-of-state same-sex marriages be recognized as legal within the state of New York. The mandate was supported by an intermediate appellate court ruling in Martinez v. County of Monroe [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], holding that legal same-sex marriages performed outside the state are entitled to recognition in New York. In September of that year, the New York Supreme Court for the Bronx (lowest court) [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a challenge to Paterson's directive. In 2007, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer (D) [official website] also introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

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