New York became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage Friday night in a historic vote which some say could have national implications. The moment was deeply moving for at least one Huntington resident.
"I've always said that love makes a family and now for the first time the state legislature has validated that," said , D-Huntington. "It's a great day to be a New Yorker and a great day to be an American."
Cooper, a gay Democratic majority leader who was elected to his sixth term in November, said after years of hard work, Friday's 33-29 vote reflects a key change in the way the American public — and particulary New Yorkers — feel about the issue of marriage equality and same sex marriage.
"This is a major step forward in the journey towards full equality, not just for New York but at the national level," Cooper said. "It's a very exciting day."
Like so many New York gay couples, Cooper and his partner traveled to Connecticut in 2009 to take their vows. The couple has raised five children — the oldest now 25. He said he heard his 16-year-old daughter yelling from the second floor and cheering when it became obvious that the vote was going to pass.
"It's important for our kids to know that our state and government values our relationship, it values our family," Cooper said.
Cooper knows a few dozen gay couples in Huntington that have been holding off marriage because they did not want to travel to other states to get married. He said that could change now, and even help the economy.
"I'd rather have several thousand weddings performed here in New York state rather than Connecticut, in Vermont or Canada," said Cooper.
Cooper predicted the vote in Albany will have national ramifications.
"I think that is going to provide a tremendous impetus for similar progress at other levels," said Cooper. "The next major battle will be at the federal level to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act — but that's another battle for another day."
New York's marriage equality bill, which grants the same legal rights to same-sex couples as heterosexuals, will take effect in 30 days. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law Friday night. New York joins Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and the District of Columbia, in legalizing gay marriage. By far the biggest state to enact such a law, with New York joining the list, the number of legally married openly gay couples in the U.S. could increase dramatically in the coming months.
"It would have been great if New York would have been the first state but being number six isn't bad," said Cooper.
Cooper said he has never been more proud to be a supporter of Cuomo who helped get the bill through.
"Many people have worked for passage of the law," Cooper said. "But were it not for the leadership and the perserverance and courage of Gov. Cuomo to take the lead on this issue and fight for it as hard as he has, it would never have happened today."
Republicans Roy McDonald, James Alesi and Steve Saland voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. of the Bronx was the only Democrat who voted against it.