By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a bill Tuesday that could pave the way for the legalization of gay marriage in New York State, and the state Legislature is one vote away from passing it.
While questions remain over whether Cuomo and gay marriage advocates can get a majority in the state Senate to pass the bill, Cuomo's Marriage Equality Act would permit all couples to marry in New York, regardless of their sex. The bill would also grant same-sex couples equal status under the law.
"For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted," the governor said in a statement. "Marriage Equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state — not of religion or culture."
Under his proposal, religious groups would still be allowed to define marriage as they wish.
A similar bill was passed by the Assembly in 2010 but failed in the the Senate 38-24.
Earlier in the day, religious leaders on both sides of the issue faced off at dueling rallies at City Hall.
More than 100 clergymen, including rabbis and pastors, gathered on City Hall Steps to voice their opposition behind a podium that read, "Marriage is between one man and one woman."
"I want to make sure that everyone knows we are not just a hole-in-the-wall group," said Bishop Joseph Mattera of Brooklyn's Resurrection Church.
Rev. Michel Faulkner, pastor of the New Horizon Church in Harlem, slammed politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg for equating gay marriage with civil rights.
He argued legalizing gay marriage would harm society for the benefit of a few.
But on the other side of the gate in City Hall Park, a small group of gay marriage advocates and religious leaders held their own demonstration, waving a giant rainbow flag as they sang, "All you need is love."
"There are religious leaders that have the courage to support gay marriage," said organizer Louis Flores, 38, of Queens, as the group sang.
The bill expected to come to vote as early as this week.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urged Republican lawmakers to come on board.
"Today marks an historic moment in the fight for full equality," she said in a statement. "Now is the time to make history.”