In a stunning vote Friday, the New York State Senate, a Republican led house, voted 33-29 to pass a gay marriage act previously passed by the lower house four times, Late in the night, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the act into law, making New York the sixth state in the nation to pass gay marriage.

New York will presently be the largest and most populous state to allow gay marriage, California’s law still remains in the courts, but is expected to reach the US Supreme Court at some point, The passage of the New York legislation will certainly send a loud signal to justices that gay marriage is the will of the people.

The passage of the same-sex marriage law approved same-sex marriage, hands American gay rights advocates a major victory in their quest for equality.

After extensive debate, the New York State Senate approved the legislation Friday night, as two previously undecided Republican lawmakers cast the deciding votes in favor of it.

[pullquote]It’s truly a historic night for love, our families, and democracy won,
– Ross Levi, Empire State Pride[/pullquote]Same-sex couples can begin marrying in the state in 30 days.

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said the law would have “a ripple effect across the nation”.

“It’s truly a historic night for love, our families, and democracy won,” he added.

New York could become a magnet for such marriages because the state has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license, All the other states with legalized same-sex marriage have some residency requirement.

Activists consider New York’s approval particularly significant since it is the third largest U.S, state and because of New York City’s international stature, The city also is considered to be the birthplace of the gay rights movement, with the Stonewall riots in the city’s Greenwich Village community in 1969. There was a huge street party at the Stonewall Inn overnight.

Revelers posted photos of the celebrations on Twitter, which included waving rainbow flags and dancing. The vote is likely to be celebrated at annual gay pride events this weekend, culminating with parades in New York City, San Francisco and other cities on Sunday.

Pressure to back the legislation came from celebrities, athletes and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long used his own fortune to help bankroll Republican campaigns and personally lobbied some undecided representatives.

The state Senate debate over the last several days centered on providing legal protections for religious groups opposed to same-sex marriages that feared they would be sued for discrimination if they refused to allow their facilities to be used for gay weddings, The lawmakers agreed on language allowing religious organizations to refuse to perform such marriages or provide space for them.

One of the pivotal Republicans, State Senator Stephen Saland, had voted against a similar bill two years ago, but on Friday pledged the deciding vote in favor the law, He called his change of heart “a vote of conscience” and said he was “doing the right thing.”

Gay couples in the legislative gallery wept as they listened to his speech,

In approving the law, the state joins Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and Washington, D.C, in allowing gay couples to marry.

The legislative debate coincided with President Barack Obama’s speech Thursday before a group of gay rights supporters at a campaign fundraising event in New York City.

Obama told the crowd that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as any other couple in this country, but he did not fully endorse same-sex marriage, The president has upset gay rights activists for his support of civil unions over marriage, but recently said his views on the matter are “evolving.”

The passage of this law in New York, particularly with the Republicans supporting it may give Obama the political support to endorse the initiative, and to seek repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that has plagued same-sex couples since the Bush administration, That law allows states to disregard the laws passed in other states, While a same-sex couple may be married legally in New York, states like Colorado or Utah do not have any legal obligation to respect that marriage, as they would the marriage of an opposite-sex couple.

Obama defended his administration’s record on gay rights, including repealing the ban on homosexuals serving in the military, and ordering the Justice Department to stop defending a law that narrowly defines marriage as that between a man and a woman.

Some analysts expect other states which have previously passed same-sex civil unions to amend their laws to allow actual marriages modeled on the New York law, Others anticipate that the same type of law, with provisions to allow religious bodies to discriminate against gay marriages on their properties will follow suit and pass such laws, though it is expected to take a long time.

Gay community activists however, believe this win to be a major victory in a long battle for equality and civil rights.

Economists on our staff believe New York will see a major surge in consumer spending and a dramatic increase in population over the next two years as same-sex couples spend on weddings, and others from states without such laws move to New York, The gay community has one of the highest economic profiles according to analysis performed by Harvard School of Economics in the 1980s.