Gay marriage

Andrew Cuomo helps win battle for NY gay marriage

It took New York Governor and Democrat Andrew Cuomo just six months after taking office to score a political victory with the state's approval to legalise gay marriage.

Born in Queens, the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo served as secretary of housing and urban development under former President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 1991.

When the younger Cuomo won the election for governor of New York in November 2010 aided by his popularity as a state attorney general, he ranked adopting gay marriage among his priorities, a difficult challenge after a failed attempt in 2009 and taking into account the state Senate's Republican majority.

But just six months after he assumed office, the 53-year-old politician launched an offensive on June 14 by presenting his proposed "Marriage Equality Act."

The bill was quickly approved by the New York assembly, which holds a Democratic majority, but then came under renewed pressure from senate Republicans.

The votes seemed unreachable: the bill needed 32 of 62 votes before the legislature went into recess on June 20.

Cuomo showed political will and participated in arduous negotiations with the state senate president, Republican Dean Skelos, who was forced to prolong the session.

In announcing on Friday afternoon that the gay marriage bill would be brought to a vote, Skelos recognised Cuomo's "cooperation" in accepting the "concerns" of Republicans and amending an original plan in order to protect the rights of religious institutions.

After the victory of 33 votes to 29, Cuomo was flanked on both sides by legislators in the capital city of Albany as he signed the bill into law late Friday night.

"Democracy works when the people speak. And the people spoke in volumes over these past few months. And this legislature responded this week to their calls," Cuomo said after the vote.

As expected, the New York gay community spared no praise for Cuomo.

"We applaud the governor for his tremendous leadership to make marriage equality a priority," said the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, one of many gay rights groups that drove the project.

Cuomo's victory elevates him to a possible candidacy for the White House in 2016, said Democratic consultant Jason Ralston.

"It's not just that he delivered on a major civil rights issue for the Democratic base in a huge state, it's how he did it — winning bipartisan support and sticking with it when it seemed it might fail," Ralston told The Washington Post.

"Combine that with his name and his focus on the middle class and he is at the front of the pack for 2016." Cuomo was previously married to Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy. They have three daughters.

(Published by Dawn - June 27, 2011)

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