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What Happens Next for Gay Marriage in the US?
The New York state legislature's passage of the Marriage Equality Act was the third landmark victory in six months for the gay-rights movement, following the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in December and the Obama Administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And while the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and DOMA breakthroughs were federal successes, the Empire State's legalization of gay marriage was perhaps the most significant in the trifecta of achievements.

New York is the sixth state to permit same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C. With more than 19 million residents, New York is also by far the largest, and it more than doubles the gay number of Americans with equal marriage rights, from 16 million to more than 35 million. The state's size, and its stature as an bellwether for progressive causes, makes a particularly potent statement about the gay-rights movement's momentum. "New York is such a powerful stage," says Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of the national gay-rights advocacy group Freedom to Marry. "It's a powerful opportunity that is going to ripple through the country and the world."

Even before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill just before midnight on June 24, the tide was already turning. The legislatures of Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois recently passed bills legalizing civil unions for gay couples, a meaningful step toward granting full marriage rights. (Rhode Island also passed a similar measure, though some gay-rights activists say its language governing religious exemptions is fatally flawed, and have urged the governor not to sign it.) Any of those states could follow the lead of states like Connecticut and Vermont, which passed civil-union bills before turning to full marriage equality. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and President Obama's former chief of staff, came out in favor of same-sex marriage on June 29. Buoyed by the victory in Albany, gay-rights advocates are surveying the states with hope, convinced that New York could catalyze a chain reaction around the country.

Full Story from Time

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Published on:  July 6, 2011


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