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‘Acceptance, Respect, Equality’

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In celebrating the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “It’s acceptance, it’s respect, it’s equality.”

The governor signed the bill Friday night. Cuomo understood how much the official recognition of same-sex marriage means to the members of the state’s gay community, and he worked hard for its passage. The gay gratitude was clear two days later at the Gay Pride Parade.

The governor held the state Legislature in Albany until a vote took place. In backroom negotiations, he was able to persuade the state Senate majority leader, Dean Skelos, to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote. The bill’s passage is a testament to the governor’s political skills.

The gay community has reason to celebrate. The law gives gay couples all the rights enjoyed by traditional married couples. The state’s option of civil unions was not equality nor respect. Nor was the state’s recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Some couples say they waited decades for this day to come.

In the wake of this historic vote, the gay community and other supporters of the Marriage Equality Act would be wise not to demonize those who opposed the legislation. The act was strongly opposed by the leaders of the Catholic Church, many Protestant churches, Orthodox Jews and Islamic leaders.

Their opposition was based on the beliefs concerning marriage that they have held for hundreds of years. The opponents believe the Marriage Equality Act redefines marriage. These are not intolerant people. And this is not the equivalent of the Civil Rights movement.

We would hope the churches and other religious groups will resist the call to blackball any member of their faith who voted in favor of this act.

The Legislature deserves great credit for not allowing the bill to come to a vote until wording was included protecting religious institutions if they decide not to allow gay weddings in their houses of worship. Without these protections, the act would not have passed.

No matter whether you support or oppose the Marriage Equality Act, Friday’s vote was a momentous event that will reverberate throughout the nation.

Updated 11:07 am, October 12, 2011
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