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NY State approves Gay marriage bill
New York state lawmakers approve gay marriage | Reuters
(Reuters) - New York's state legislature gave final approval on Friday to same-sex marriages, a key victory for gay rights ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
New York will become the sixth and most populous U.S. state to allow gay marriage.
State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office.
"I cannot deny a person, a human being ... the same rights that I have with my wife," said Republican Senator Mark Grisanti before voting in favor of the bill.
Cheers erupted in the public gallery of the Senate after passage of the bill, which was approved earlier in the state Assembly.
After Cuomo signs the bill into law, same-sex weddings can start taking place in New York in 30 days, though religious institutions and nonprofit groups with religious affiliations will not be compelled to officiate at such ceremonies.
The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents New York state Bishops, criticized the legislation, saying that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman.
"Government does not have the authority to change this most basic of truths," the bishops said in a statement.
President Barack Obama, who attended a fundraiser in New York on Thursday for Gay Pride Week, has a nuanced stance on gay issues. Experts say he could risk alienating large portions of the electorate if he came out strongly in favor of such matters as gay marriage before the 2012 elections.
During the 2008 election Obama picked up important support from Evangelicals, Catholics, Latinos and African-Americans, some of whom oppose gay marriage, which has become a contentious social issue being fought state-by-state.
In California a judge last year overturned a ban on gay marriage, but no weddings can take place while the decision is being appealed. It could set national policy if the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, and Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New jersey approved civil unions. The first legal same-sex marriages in the United States took place in Massachusetts in 2004.
But gay marriage is banned in 39 states.