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New York legalises gay marriage

After days of contentious negotiations and last-minute reversals by two Republican senators, New York has become the sixth and largest state in the US to legalise gay marriage, breathing life back into the national gay rights movement that stalled over a nearly identical bill in the state two years ago.

Pending any court challenges, legal gay marriages will begin in New York by late July after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed his bill into law just before midnight on Friday.

At New York City's Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village pub that spawned the gay rights movement on a June night in 1969, Scott Redstone watched New York sign the historic same-sex marriage law with his partner of 29 years, and popped the question to Steven Knittweis.

"I said, 'Will you marry me?' And he said, 'Of course!"'

New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed, doubling the number of Americans living in a state with legal gay marriage.

"That's certainly going to have a ripple effect across the nation," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "It's truly a historic night for love, our families, and democracy won."

The leading opponent, Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz, was given only a few minutes to state his case during the Senate debate. "God, not Albany, settled the issue of marriage a long time ago," said Mr Diaz, who is also a minister in the New York City borough of the Bronx.

The Catholic Bishops of New York said the law alters "radically and forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage".

"We always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love," the bishops stated, "We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilisation."

New York, the nation's third most populous state, will join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington DC in allowing same-sex couples to wed.

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