Gay marriage passes first vote in New York state

NEW YORK Tue May 12, 2009 9:28pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York State Assembly passed a bill to legalize gay marriage on Tuesday, but the measure still faces an uphill battle in the state Senate.

The measure, introduced last month by Governor David Paterson, passed by a margin of 89 to 52 in the state's lower house, where Democrats have a comfortable majority. A similar bill passed in the same assembly by an 85-61 vote in 2007.

"New Yorkers should have the right to marry who they chose. Partners unable to enter into a civil marriage, and their children, lack basic legal protections taken for granted by married couples," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

The bill has an uncertain future in the New York State Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

If the bill became law, New York would follow Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage. New Hampshire has passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, but it still needs to be signed by the governor.

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

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Michelle Nichols and Eric Walsh)

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