New York has just become the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. The NY Senate passed the bill earlier this evening, and then Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law. It will take effect 30 days from the Governor’s signing. New York joins Vermont and New Hampshire as the only states to legalize gay marriage through state legislatures. In every other state, it has happened through the courts. This bill doubles the number of people in the United States who will have access to same-sex marriage.
Senator Stephen Saland was a Republican hold-out who in the end became the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage. During the debate, he argued that the religious exemptions that were added to the bill made it acceptable. In particular, he argued that amendments to the bill would protect the religious liberty of churches and other non-profits that object to gay marriage.
There is an “inseverabilty clause” in the amendments that ensure that no part of the bill or amendments can be struck down individually by a judge. If any part of the religious exemptions ever get struck down in court, then the whole law gets struck as well. In short, if religious exemptions fall, so do gay marriage rights in New York.
For those of us who support traditional marriage, these religious exemptions are no consolation. The central point of the debate is whether or not our society will privilege traditional marriage in law. New York says no. Religious exemptions or not, this is a sad vote.
See Michael Foust’s excellent coverage in the Baptist Press here.