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Gay marriage rights approved

ALBANY – Gay marriage rights were approved Friday night after a Hudson Valley Republican said he was becoming the crucial 32nd vote to carry the measure through after marathon weeks of lobbying, cajoling and threats by both sides in the emotional debate that has tested the religious and political limits for many state lawmakers.

The vote was 33-29, two more than needed.

"USA! USA! USA!'' a crowd of spectators chanted after the vote.

Sen. Stephen Saland, a Dutchess County Republican, said the bill had changed enough to ensure religious organization will be protected by the measure.

“I’m certainly at peace with my vote. It was a struggle,’’ Saland said on the Senate floor shortly before 10pm.

Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, to the applause of spectators in the gallery, said he was ending his past opposition and voting for the bill.

"I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage,'' Grisanti said.

He noted his years of opposition and campaign vows to oppose gay marriage. "To those whose support I may lose, please know in the past I was telling you what I believed at that time was the truth,'' Grisanti said.

"I struggled with this immensely,'' he added.

In the end, though, he said, "I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, people of my district (and) across this state ... the same rights I have with my wife."

Unless senators who already pledged to switch their votes, the measure will pass with at least 32 votes tonight.

Debate was still underway Friday night, but 31 senators already had said they support the measure. It is uncertain if any other Republicans will join Saland.

New York will become the sixth state, and the largest, to permit same-sex marriages once signed into law, as promised by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cheers from supporters could be heard flowing onto the Senate floor after an amendment providing additional religious organization protections was approved by 36 votes.

-- Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |