Jul 26, 2014
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Gay Marriage Celebration at Sweet Revenge

Gays and straights alike hail state Senate vote to legalize same-sex unions.

Gay Marriage Celebration at Sweet Revenge

At the edge of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, just like in other parts of the city and state, Gay Pride came in full force this year. 

And Fernando Cambeiro, a bartender at Sweet Revenge on Franklin Avenue, couldn't be happier.

"I finally feel like we're in the future and not in the Stone Ages anymore," Cambeiro said. 

Was Cambeiro surprised that the gay marriage bill passed just two years after the state Senate rejected the measure?

"I'm relieved. I personally thought it was going to happen," he said. "I don't know, maybe I didn't think it would happen really though."

In a late night session four days after the end of the regular legislative session, the state Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in a historic 33 to 29 vote on Friday. 

For many LGBT people enjoying themselves at this gay-friendly establishment, the timing of today's vote was everything. 

"It means a lot to me, as a gay man, that this is happening," said Fort Greene resident Brian Matthews. "But that it's coming during Pride, that makes it even more special." 

It’s been a long road for both sides of the gay marriage debate in New York State.

The mayor of New Paltz, Jason West, was the first New York public official to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. However, subsequent challenges by gay marriage opponents resulted in the courts striking down those unions as unconstitutional in 2006.

Shortly after, the State Legislature went to work.

A bill legalizing same-sex unions was first introduced in the Assembly in 2007 and later passed the Democratic-controlled chamber multiple times since.

However, the politics of gay marriage has been a much more complex affair in the state Senate — one that often transcended party lines.

Eight senate Democrats joined Republicans to vote down the measure in 2009. Of those Dems, six hailed from the five boroughs, led by state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., D-Bronx, a Pentecostal minister who opposes same-sex unions on religious grounds. 

In the last days before the bill’s passage, it was concerns raised by religious leaders like Diaz Sr. that dominated negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and wavering Senate Republicans.

With the passage of the bill, New York joins five states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex unions.

Back at Sweet Revenge, there were plenty of indications that the debate over gay marriage was truly a family affair. 

Brothers Nick and Chris, who declined to give their last names, sat at the bar talking about the experience of their gay family members. 

"It's a real positive step... it gives them the choice to get married and live their life and move forward with the same rights that we have," Nick said. 

Meanwhile, Chris talked specifically about his uncle and his partner, who got married in Connecticut where same-sex unions have been legal since 2008.

"That's why I think it's really good to have a law here, so that people don't have to do ridiculous things like go to another state to get married," Chris said. 

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