Gay rights advocates: Marriage Bill is just the tip of iceberg

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Just as gay and lesbian people across the state celebrated Friday night's passage of the same sex marriage bill, so did many in the local area, including a couple from Utica who have been pushing for gay, lesbian and transgender rights for decades.

Jeff Sterling and his longtime partner Milford Decker have also waited for decades for the right to marry. Right after Friday night's vote by the state senate, Sterling said he thought all along the same sex marriage bill would pass this time around here in New York.

He also says he was encouraged by so many other advocates around the state who got their voices heard by many assembly members, and by 29 democratic senators and 4 republican senators. The final vote in the senate was 33 to 29. It had been easily passed previously in the assembly.

Sterling says he believes this historic vote in New York will lead other states to follow suit. He said, "I really do. I don't know how quickly that will be, I think it will start with the east coast, the red states so to speak."

Sterling and Decker have not announced their future wedding plans yet. They said, "I know it's going to take some time to get the marriage forms because I was down at City Hall yesterday or the day before and it says 'Bride & Groom' on the marriage form, so they're going to have to take some time to do that. What will they do, Party A, and Party B? I think that's how they do it in Massachusetts."

Governor Cuomo spoke after Friday night's vote and credited the advocacy groups from around the state who contacted their legislators and let their feelings be know. Sterling says it's grass roots efforts that institute change.

He said, "It looks like the governor, and all the advocates who were working hard on the ground, got more votes. I'm a little disappointed our own senator didn't vote in favor of supporting the civil rights issue."

Senator Joe Griffo of Rome and Senator Jim Seward of Oneonta were both unavailable for comment on Saturday. Griffo said he will make comment on the issue on Monday. Both area senators voted against the bill.

Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law not too long after the vote was taken. Same sex marriages in New York State can take place starting on July 24th.

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