Andrew Cuomo Introduces Marriage Equality Act

ALBANY, NY - JANUARY 1: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at his inauguration in the War Room at the state Capitol on January 1, 2011 in Albany, New York. In attendance were Governor Cuomo's girlfriend Sandra Lee, his daughters Michaela, Mariah and Cara and his parents former Governor Mario M. Cuomo and Matilda Cuomo. (Photo by Nathaniel Brooks-Pool/Getty Images) Photo: Pool/2011 Getty Images

"Marriage is a fundamental human right," reads the Marriage Equality Act, a bill introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo today for consideration by the State Assembly and State Senate. "Same-sex couples should have the same access as others to the protections, responsibilities, rights, obligations, and benefits of civil marriage. Stable family relationships build a stronger society. For the welfare of the community and in fairness to all New Yorkers, this act formally recognizes otherwise-valid marriages without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex."

Knowing full well that conservative religious leaders like Catholic Archbishop Timothy Egan are currently striving to halt building momentum toward marriage equality in New York, Cuomo included in the bill language protecting religious groups.

[A religious group] shall be deemed to be in its nature distinctly private and therefore, shall not be required to provide accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage... A refusal by a benevolent organization or a religious corporation ….to provide accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges in connection with section ten-a of this article shall not create a civil claim or cause of action.

"The momentum we've been building all year has crested at a very opportune time," Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Ross Levi told the News. "We think this is a very strong environment to go into these remaining days of the legislative session."

NY's top Catholic officials seek to halt Senate vote on legalizing gay marriage [NYDN]
Marriage Equality Act []