The New York Civil Liberties Union tonight applauded the State Assembly for taking an important step toward making marriage for lesbian and gay New Yorkers legal in New York State by passing the marriage bill 89 to 52, and called on the State Senate to quickly pass the same bill.

“The State Assembly has joined Governor Paterson in protecting New York families and must be applauded,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Now it’s time for the State Senate to join the governor and Assembly in supporting fairness, a core American value.”

The bill includes a religious exemption to make clear that it only impacts marriage as a civil institution – clergy will not have to solemnize marriages should the Senate approve the bill.

Out-of-state marriages between lesbian and gay New Yorkers are already recognized in the New York. In 2008, the NYCLU achieved a landmark legal victory when a state appellate court unanimously ruled in Martinez v. County of Monroe that New York State must recognize the valid out-of-state marriages of lesbian and gay couples. Following that victory, Governor Paterson directed all state agencies to follow the law and revise their policies to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. Since then, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and Iowa have legalized marriage for lesbian and gay couples, and the New Hampshire Senate has voted to extend the civil right.

Voters also support marriage fairness. A recent Siena poll shows that a majority of New Yorkers support the marriage bill, and that the support extends through every region of the state. In 2007, the same bill passed in the State Assembly by a vote of 85-61. Every single Assembly member who voted for marriage — Democrat and Republican — won reelection last November.

“Momentum is clearly on our side,” Lieberman said. “New Yorkers should not have to cross state lines to protect their families. It’s time for the Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead and do the right thing and stand up for all of New York’s families.”