On June 24, 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law, making New York the sixth, and by far the largest, state to give gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry. The signing immediately followed a historic vote in the State Senate in which four Republicans joined 29 Democrats to pass the marriage bill. The NYCLU had campaigned aggressively for fair marriage laws. Our advocacy targeted a handful of undecided senators whose votes were crucial to passing the bill. Several of those senators ended up voting for the bill.
The NYCLU and ACLU continue fighting to ensure that the federal government will recognize marriages of same-sex couples in New York by pursuing our legal challenge to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a law that bars the federal government from respecting the legal marriages of same-sex couples. New York joins five other states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa – plus the District of Columbia – in granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry. In 2011, three states (Illinois, Hawaii and Delaware) created civil unions for same-sex couples, bringing the total number of civil-union states to eight. Three more states provide more limited domestic partnership registries for same-sex couples. The NYCLU has created Fair Marriage Laws in New York: Frequently Asked Questions – a guide to help same-sex couples understand their rights under the state's fair marriage law.