NY governor to unveil bill to legalize gay marriage

NEW YORK Wed Apr 15, 2009 7:22pm EDT

1 of 2. Sharon Papo (R) and her partner Amber Weiss display their wedding rings after exchanging wedding vows at City Hall on the first full day of legal same-sex marriages in San Francisco, California June 17, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Erin Siegal

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor David Paterson will introduce legislation on Thursday to make gay marriage legal, but the move faces an uncertain vote in the state's Senate.

If the bill passes, New York would follow Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage.

"The timing was always right," said Paterson, a Democrat -- who ordered all New York state agencies a year ago to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. "It's just who is willing to take that step, and I am."

Gay marriage has broad support in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, where it passed in a vote of 85 to 61 in 2007. It was never put to a vote in the Senate while it was controlled by Republicans.

While the Democrats now hold a Senate majority for the first time in more than 40 years, it is slim -- 32 to 30 -- and at least one Democratic senator, Ruben Diaz, opposes gay marriage. He says the issue should be decided by a voter referendum.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Maine, which already offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition, are also considering bills to allow gay marriage.

California briefly recognized gay marriage until voters banned it in a referendum last year.

Forty-three U.S. states have laws explicitly prohibiting gay marriage, including 29 with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols)

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