The Freedom to Marry in New York

Winning Marriage: July 24, 2011

Same-sex couples began marrying in New York on July 24, 2011 after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a freedom to marry bill into law one month earlier. Freedom to Marry worked closely with Governor Cuomo and was a leading and founding architect of New Yorkers United for Marriage, the coalition to win marriage in New York.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • February 27, 2004: New Paltz Mayor Jason West marries 25 same-sex couples. Mayor West is later issued an injunction ordering him not to solemnize marriages between same-sex couples, but several mayors in other parts of the state announce that they will recognize the 25 marriages.
  • >February 4, 2005: State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan rules in the Lambda Legal case Hernandez v. Robles that New York City may not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The decision is appealed later in the year to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.
  • December 8, 2005: The First Department of the New York Appellate Division overturns the lower court ruling in Hernandez v. Robles, and Lambda Legal appeals to the New York Court of Appeals.
  • July 6, 2006: The New York Court of Appeals upholds marriage discrimination in New York in Hernandez v. Robles.
  • 2006-2011: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in New York take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • May 2008: Governor David Paterson directs state agencies to ensure that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are respected and treated equally under law, in the same way that New York treats different-sex couples' marriages.
  • December 2, 2009: Following an intense, frustrating campaign to win the freedom to marry legislatively in New York, a vote is called in the New York Senate, and the marriage bill fails. The vote sets off action from the political action committee Fight Back New York to flip the Legislature in support of the freedom to marry.
  • February 24, 2010: Fight Back New York, a political action committee dedicated to replacing NY legislators who opposed the freedom to marry with supporters, launches. By the November election, the PAC flips three seats.
  • January 4, 2011: Governor Andrew Cuomo repeatedly calls for the legislature to pass a marriage bill in his 2011 State of the State Address.
  • April 2011: Polling in New York tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • April 20, 2011: New Yorkers United for Marriage, the coalition to secure the freedom to marry in New York, launches. The coalition is founded by Freedom to Marry, Empire State Pride Agenda, and the Human Rights Campaign, with the Gill Action Fund lending significant political heft.
  • June 14, 2011: Governor Andrew Cuomo proposes legislation to enact the freedom to marry in New York.
  • June 24, 2011:  New York becomes the seventh – and largest – jurisdiction to legalize the freedom to marry when the New York Legislature passes a marriage bill. Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill into law moments later.
  • July 24, 2011: The freedom to marry takes effect in New York, and the first same-sex couples in the state begin to marry.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Empire State Pride Agenda is New York's statewide lesbian, gay,bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization.
  • Marriage Equality New York was an all-inclusive organization whose mission was to educate the public by raising awareness of the freedom to marry in New York.
  • The Gill Action Fund is a bipartisan foundation working to advance equality for LGBT people through the legislative, political, and electoral process.
  • New Yorkers United for Marriage was a coalition of organizations dedicated to winning marriage in New York. Freedom to Marry co-created and co-led the coalition.
  • Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
  • New York Log Cabin Republicans is the statewide umbrella group for New York chapters of the largest organization of gay and lesbian Republicans in the country.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.