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The bill passed the Republican-controlled body, 33-29, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it just before midnight. Voting for it were 29 Democrats and four Republicans. The Assembly had already passed it. The bill will take effect in 30 days. Conservatives warned the law, despite what critics said, would negatively impact religious freedom.

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It was a huge moment for the homosexual movement, which three years ago saw another big state — California — legalize “gay marriage” only later to prohibit it through a voter-approved constitutional amendment. That will not happen in New York, which, unlike California, does not allow citizens to drive the initiative process. Any marriage amendment in New York must be initiated by the legislature — a highly unlikely event.

Just two years ago, a “gay marriage” bill failed in the Senate when it was controlled by Democrats. But this time, several senators flipped from “no” to “yes” votes. The new law says that, when examining New York marriage laws, “all gender-specific language” shall be defined “in a gender-neutral manner.” It also recognizes marriages “without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex.”

New York’s population, which ranks third nationally, is more than the combined populations of the five states where “gay marriage” already is legal: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa. New York is the third state to pass such a bill via the legislative process.

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New York’s influence on other states, particularly New Jersey — where “gay marriage” is not legal — is viewed as significant by many observers. The state is influential for another reason: Most major television outlets are headquartered there.

The National Organization for Marriage, which opposed the bill, called it “sham religious liberty language.” The organization also said it was unclear whether the language would allow Catholic adoption agencies to stay in business in the state. After “gay marriage” was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, Catholic Charities chose to get out of adoptions instead of being forced to place children in same-sex homes.