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Local Reaction: Gay Marriage Bill Passes

A watershed day for New York as it becomes the most populous state to recognize gay marriage.

It came down to one late Friday night, the decision of one Hudson Valley senator and one nail-biter of a political drama, but New York is now the 6th state — and the union's largest — to perform same-sex marriages.

The following morning, local reaction around the town of Eastchester was almost unanimously positive, echoed by Bronxville resident Dave Ramsey.

“It’s fantastic,” said Ramsey. “It’s a long time coming and it’s a shame it had to go through such a torturous process. It's somewhat ironic that it was a Republican senator from Poughkeepsie that was the deciding vote, but I think it’s a very positive sign for New York State politics as a whole.”

“I was out last night in New York and I actually didn’t hear about it until I came home,” said Ellie Horowitz, also from Bronxville. “I was really thrilled. I have a lot of friends who will be very happy. I’ll probably be attending a wedding in the near future.”

Gary Porto, 59, and his partner Ruben Santiago, 54, who live together in Yorktown expressed their fervent support for the measure earlier on Friday. 

Allowing such unions can, and will, change people's attitudes toward gays and lesbians, Porto said. 

"It will show people that the world didn't fall apart," he said. "Love is love."

The bill passed the Assembly as expected, 82-47, and then around 10:30 p.m., the Senate voted in favor 32-29. Shouts of "USA! USA! USA!" erupted after the vote.

Sen. Stephen Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican, had opposed the measure previously tipped the scale in favor of the measure Friday. Read his statement here.

Porto and Santiago have known each other for nearly three decades and for the last 19 years, the couple has shared a home in Yorktown. Porto said he wants the same things as any "normal" couple. 

"Just to have that recognition," he said. "It's so hard to put into words how important this is. It's really throwing us a bone because the federal government still doesn't recognize us. But it least will be one less block for people to use to discriminate against us."

Although they've had the chance to get married in other states, they decided that's not what they wanted. 

"I want the place I was born in and raised in to accept me," said the Bronx-born Porto. Santiago was born in Harlem.

New Rochelle resident Judith Pinals said the passage of the bill was about time.

"This was a justice issue," she said.

Her temple, , has an LGBT committee. "Our temple is known to be welcoming and supportive of this issue," Pinals said.

New Rochelle resident and business man Scott Cohen said he was thrilled about the vote.

He was married in Connecticut to his husband.

"This means that people who want to be married in a same-sex relationship can do so in their home state," Cohen said.

He said having gay marriage OK'd in California and then taken away by Prop 8 was scary and he hopes the same thing doesn't happen in New York.

"I'm happy for now," Cohen said. "I don't know if it will be appealed. But I'm enjoying the current feeling."

Applying religious exemptions appeared central to passage. Religious institutions do not have to recognize same-sex marriages under the New York law.

Father Albert Azark  from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in White Plains explained his stance on the issue.

"We have no problem with gays," Azark said in advance of the vote. "We have gay couples in our church, but we can’t perform a wedding. It’s not our church, that’s how the tradition is. It’s the man and wife. We don’t reject people who come to church. I have a niece who’s gay, and the family went to some ceremony in Massachusetts.

"People get confused that because we can't perform the ceremony, but we don’t reject people here," he said. "You know we’re all sinners, the only one who judges us is going to be God.”

Pastor Matthew Curry of the United Methodist Church of Mount Kisco, in an interview Thursday, stated he personally supports allowing for same-sex marriage on a civil basis, and to allow for religious organizations to have the option to do so. However, he also supports having the discisions to perform marriages be at the discretion of the religious organizations.

The task of reversing the failed 2009 gay marriage vote in New York was significant, especially when polls showed New York voters remained divided over the issue — even within the same snapshot. A NY1/YNN-Marist Poll released last month found 53 percent of adult New Yorkers said marriage should only be between a man and a woman while at the same time 50 percent said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in New York.

"We are all really ecstatic," said David Juhren, executive director of The LOFT LGBT Community Services Center for the Lower Hudson Valley and a Cortlandt Manor resident.

"A lot of people worked very hard in the last fews years since the Senate last voted," he said. "A lot of people worked to change the landscape and to make this night happen. We understand why they are in there (religious provisions.) They need to be there. We believe in a separation of church and state. No church should have to do something they don't want to do."

New Rochelle resident Linda Barat reached her 20-year-old gay son by cell phone at a celebration in front of the Stonewall bar in Manhattan after the vote was finalized.

"He held the phone up" so she could hear the cheers from the crowd.

"This is one of those moments where you can remember where you were when it happened," Barat said.

She was at a Pride Shabbat service at Temple Israel of New Rochelle while the vote was being taken.

"Everyone was cheering and hugging," Barat said.

She said people were checking their smartphones and crying out that the vote had been taken.

"What could be better to be with members of our community," when this happened, Barat said. "All I wanted was to talk to my son."

The issue crossed lines of sexuality, religion and politics to be sure, but also served to connect many, including gay activists of different generations.

James Stewart, the program director for the Westchester Jewish Center Services’ program the Center Lane LGBTQ Youth Community Center, which is based in both White Plains and Yonkers, was speaking to one of the kids about something serious at the Yonkers center Friday night.

Then he heard screaming coming out of the office. The marriage bill had passed.

“There was a lot of yelling and hugging and kissing," he said, struggling to find words. “It’s just hard to believe.”

Contributor Maddy Roth and Patch editors Dina Sciortino, Tom Auchterlonie and Plamena Pesheva contributed to this report. 

Ross Revira June 26, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Let see if this gets removed: If this is about people exercising their constitutional rights than I ask this question. Would the next logical step be allowing a brother and sister to marry? Excluding the potential medical risks of their offspring what is the difference? Don't they have a civil right to marry the person of their choice? That said I have no religious or personal reasons to deny gays happiness. Good luck enjoy the rest of your life.
patch is more like a blog then a news source, it allows u to post comments doesnt it, lay off the journalists, just keep trying to convince people how bad gay marriage is and stop ripping on the reporting
Ross Revira June 26, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Heron since when is a law determined by the amount of people wanting their civil rights. Gays only represent 3%-10% of the population. The US Constitution protects the minority from the majority. The vast majority of people in the US do not find homosexual sex appealing but is this a reason to make it illegal? What is good for the goose is good for the gander. This law has many unintended consequences.
Meredith Lesly June 26, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Indeed. The Constitution says that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." There was a time when there it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry. It was found unconstitutional Many of the arguments made above could have been said about miscegenation back then.
Deanna Gould June 26, 2011 at 02:35 PM
30 BC is the best you can offer up? And yes, I am biased when it comes to ignorant human beings. Are you sure you're not really Glenn Beck? You sure sound like him with his arguments.
Ross Revira June 26, 2011 at 02:36 PM
So Meredith you would have to agree that siblings should be allowed to marry?
Deanna Gould June 26, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Have a nice day, Glenn! No time for stupidity.
John Tirella June 26, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Great point Ross! Maybe "Banjo" lessons should be required by all applicants for a "Marriage License". Since the sodomy laws in NY State have been declared in NY State unconstitutional, no residency requirement for the license and no blood test, seems to be a money maker for both the gov't entities and tourist industry! Don't ask-Don't tell> just give me the dough! $40 to $50 a pop plus staying in a hotel/motel, food, etc is also taxed. Windfall for the state, you bet and didn't have to do a thing for it.
Theresa Kump Leghorn June 26, 2011 at 03:51 PM
This whole discussion thread supports my contention that Patch should require commenters to use their real names. The people who hide behind fake screen names feel empowered to say all kinds of crazy, hateful things because they are cowards: If they used their real names they would think twice before hitting the "send" key.
Meredith Lesly June 26, 2011 at 03:55 PM
No, I don't have to agree with that, since it does not logically follow.
Meredith Lesly June 26, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Actually, commenters have to use their real names according to the ToS. I've already written to the parent company suggesting that it be enforced. Hopefully you missed the 5 or so posts from one of my two cyberstalkers. The comment moderator on duty removed them very quickly, but he shouldn't have been allowed to post in the first place without using his real name.
Chauncy Tillinghast June 26, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Mesoderm, just because you are unable to see me on Facebook does not mean I am not using my given name. If I was using Hussein Magimba you would not dare to question my identity.And if anyone else questioned it he would be called a racist and a bigot. Your intolerance for people who are different than you because their names appear "funny" to you is deplorable, bordering in bigotry. you should learn to embrace the diversity of names of citizens of the USA, even if they belong to the 97% in the heterosexual class of people.
Chauncy Tillinghast June 26, 2011 at 04:21 PM
we just made a law based on sexual preference. Before this stupid law was passed, ALL people had the exact same rights under the Constitution and the laws of NYS. Heterosexual men could not marry a man and neither could someone whi calls himself gay marry another man. Exact same rights.
Earl June 26, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Actually Merideth, if there is no money left to fund those "legal obligations " you call pensions, then what, we just raise taxes 100% or more a year to cover them? I don't think so- either mass layoffs will happen to compensate or the unions will use their heads and come to a fair agreement like they did in Jersey with Gov Christie- or they'll just be forced. One way or the other, the money just aint there.
Chauncy Tillinghast June 26, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Your comments are selective and disingenuous since you not once chastised those gay bloggers who continually called other bloggers hateful and bigots.
Katie Ryan O'Connor June 26, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Hi Theresa, You bring up something we talk about and work on all the time at Patch. When it comes to our commenting function, we always strive to do better and make improvements all the time, some visible and some behind-the-scenes. Right now we aren't "checking IDs" at the door, so to speak, but we absolutely enforce our terms of use and can/will/do delete comments and suspend user accounts (including by IP address) for persistent offenders. Deciding what comments stay or go is sometimes the easiest thing I do all day, other times extremely difficult — a true judgment call. As a journalist, I'm always wary of solving issues of free speech with less speech — I don't think that's the answer — but we can't allow this space to be hostile either. Luckily, the vast majority of our readers are honest, sincere people who wish to have their say on issues of the day in a civil fashion and we are sensitive to not make that process overly burdensome. A few things everyone should know: Always feel free to report those unwilling to play by the rules (personal attacks, off-topic rants, hate speech) immediately to me at kathleen@patch.com and also familiarize yourself with our "flag" button. That's a method of self-policing that some might find useful.
Chauncy Tillinghast June 26, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Hey Bjorn, Deanna just called the previous blogger ( whose post was mysteriously deleted) a bad name, how vome you are not calling her out for banishment. BTW please use your real name from now on. The first two letters are a dead giveaway.
Chauncy Tillinghast June 26, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Brucie, why are you so intolerant? Attacking the Catholic church because you are Jewish is probably not what the Rabbi taught you.
JJ June 26, 2011 at 05:03 PM
It's about time New York! Finally!
Mitch Horn June 26, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Would someone please explain to the right that being hateful and name calling completely undermines their argument for the the "Moral" high road?"Judge not lest ye be judged" "do unto others...." "What you do to the least of these..."As a gay Christian, and no that is not an Oxymoron, My relationship with my maker and my appointment with him at the end of my journey on this plain is none of any of your concerns. I was made in the image of my God, and"I am Beautifully and wonderfully made." My God has love enough for all of us, and rejoices that I can love and be loved. It has just been the insecurities and prejudices of Man that has taken so long to catch up. This legislation is the end of a bitter, cruel era, and I rejoice that gay folks from this point onward do not have to see themselves as automatically being "Outside" the law. and when their parents, peers, strangers, bully and abuse them for who they are, they now have legal validation that they too can one day be a part of the "American Dream" and pursue Life, Liberty freedom and Happiness... regardless.
Reality June 26, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Yes, lets get back on Topic. NYS is once again a leader in Civil Rights. Marriage Equality is right and and affords a lot of loving couples the rights and priviledges so many of us always enjoyed and took for granted. It also restores family values as two loving adults can now take their vows and children can proudly say that there parents are married and not just friends, partners, etc. This will strengthen the sanctury of Marriage and will be a positive step for society. Congratulations to all who have waited so long and for those who will take advantage of this law may your Wedding Day be beautiful and may your Marriage be fill of love & happiness.
John Sergent June 26, 2011 at 05:23 PM
The only thing such a rule *does* is to encourage/enable cyberstalkers. People are pretty much as rude under their own names as under false ones, and there is nothing stopping someone from choosing a real-looking name that isn't theirs. Meanwhile those of us who try to follow the rules are left vulnerable to any loose nut who takes offense over nothing. I understand they mean well, but it's still at best a silly requirement.
John Sergent June 26, 2011 at 05:29 PM
"What's the difference," you ask. If you cannot tell the difference between your sibling and someone you're not closely related to, then I'm glad not to be a relative of yours :) Serious answer: marriage is about creating a kin relationship between mates. You already *have* a kinship with your siblings, which takes precedence. But if it's such a big deal to you.... well, so few people would ever *want* to do that then I say go ahead and let them. After all, already more states let you marry a first cousin than someone of the same sex.
John Sergent June 26, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Of course it won't fix everything. But it's one less thing wrong, at least in New York.
Eddie Izzard June 26, 2011 at 06:29 PM
I am always saddened any day a member of religious community is so judgement as to try to fill the role of God. He as our FORGIVING creator would never pass judgement so harshly on His own creations as to condem them to damnation for acting on as pure and selfless an emotion as love, and if he dose then wouldn't none of us be safe. For to be human we all have acted much worse on much darker emotions of greed and hate, such as you chose to now, and for your view of a God that regeats His children for acting purly and living a life pain and inequality for these pure reasons that SOCIETY does not accept, well I'm sorry because you are going to be very lonely in you idea of Heaven.
Nurse Ratched June 26, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Congratulations to those who have same sex partners and will be able to marry. A word of advice from someone who has been married for 17 years. The grass is always greener! A marriage can at times be like a job. But with the right person, regardless of sexual orientation, can be a wonderful union of souls. Good luck to ALL those who plan to marry in the near future. Buckle in!!!!!! AND NO....THIS IS NOT MY REAL NAME.....DOES IT DETRACT FROM THE CONTENT OF MY STATEMENT!!!!!! I THINK NOT
Meredith Lesly June 26, 2011 at 08:31 PM
In Hastings-on-Hudson, property taxes went up 4.5%, which included coverage of pensions. I rather doubt that wherever you live would require raising taxes 100%. But why use facts when you can use hyperbole?
Meredith Lesly June 26, 2011 at 08:33 PM
John, I doubt nearly as many people would be as rude, at least if they stopped to think for a moment. (I know, an unreasonable assumption about many.) After all, it wouldn't look very good when your next employer googles your name and sees what comes up.
Meredith Lesly June 26, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Your terms of service require people to use their own name. I understand you want to promote a free-flowing exchange of ideas, but if someone doesn't have the courage to post an opinion under their own name, they shouldn't post it. Given that I had a cyberstalker post 5 nasty-grams last night, all under separate names, I admit some of my reaction is personal, but some of the comments made last night had led me to look up your ToS before that. If you want to allow people to post things anonymously, at the very least they should have to be approved by a moderator before appearing in public rather than having them visible until they're removed.
Katie Ryan O'Connor June 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Hi all, Because the discussion is now settling into a back and forth between just a handful of people I'm closing comments for now. Please feel free to continue the conversation on the story at hand on our Facebook pages, which can be found by searching for the name of your Patch in Facebook. Have a wonderful end to your weekend.

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