|While history is not yet made, the shifting debate reflects growing public acceptance of a concept that was politically unthinkable a generation ago.|
An affirmative vote would be a historic and beneficial milestone.
With Gov. Cuomo and the Assembly strongly supporting the move, the fate of this landmark legislation hangs on a closely divided state Senate.
As of last night, 31 of 62 members were on record in favor, including three Democrats and two Republicans who formerly voted no. Just one more senator would put the bill over the top.
While history is not yet made, the shifting debate reflects growing public acceptance of a concept that was politically unthinkable a generation ago.
As recently as 2004, a Quinnipiac College poll found that New Yorkers opposed gay marriage, 55% to 37%. As of April, those numbers had flipped, with 56% in favor and 38% against.
This week's developments in Albany bear out the wisdom of the Court of Appeals' 2006 decision that rightly left the issue for lawmakers to decide rather than imposing a solution by judicial fiat.
It now falls to Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to bring same-sex marriage to the floor for a vote. He must let the bill rise or fall in full public debate, and with recorded votes.
The drive to legally recognize same-sex relationships grows out of the reality that gay and lesbian New Yorkers are forming families - yet don't have the legal protections relating to inheritance, health benefits, hospital visitation and other matters that heterosexual couples take for granted.
Guaranteeing those rights has always made sense. One way to do so is through civil unions, which would be marriage in everything but name. But gay rights advocates view that as insufficient.
Yesterday, Gov. Cuomo sent the Legislature a bill expanding New York's marriage laws to allow adults to wed the spouse of their choice regardless of gender. His legislation includes provisions meant to spare religiously affiliated organizations from having to host gay marriage ceremonies and celebrations if it goes against their principles.
But these safeguards will not satisfy those who oppose this redefinition of marriage as a matter of morality, such as the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish leaders. The opponents' position deserves full respect.
Ultimately, though, it's up to the people's elected representatives to decide. Vote they must.