NEW YORK (CNN) -- Saying "the time has come," Gov. David Paterson announced Thursday he will introduce a bill in the state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.
Gov. David Paterson said it's time to to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.
"The time has come to act. The time has come for leadership. The time has come to bring marriage equality to the state of New York," he said in a morning news conference.
The proposed legislation would allow same-sex couples in the state to enter into civil marriages and enjoy the same rights afforded to heterosexual married couples.
He defined the issue as one that would affect families and not just those "walking down the aisle."
"Too many loving families right here in New York state have not received legal recognition they actually deserve," Paterson said. "We have an honor and we have a duty to make sure equality exists for everyone."
The legislation would give same-sex couples 1,300 to 1,400 rights that don't exist unless a couple is married, he said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several federal, state and local lawmakers were present to show their support for both the governor and the proposed legislation.
"New Yorkers pride themselves on their ability to practice their individual freedoms," Bloomberg said, "and that includes the right to say what you believe, to practice your own faith and to love whomever you want, and it's time for this state to take the next step and ensure the rights of same-sex couples to marry whom they want."
State Sen. Thomas Duane, who will sponsor the bill in the state Senate, added, "I know that Gov. Paterson is going to roll up his sleeves, and he's going to get this done, and we're going to make same-sex marriage a reality in this state."
Paterson's announcement comes when his disapproval ratings are at a new high. In a recent survey by Quinnipiac University, 60 percent of New York state voters said they disapproved of Paterson's job as governor, while only 20 percent approved. Regardless, many in the state are backing the effort to provide legal equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in New York.
If the legislation passes, New York would be the fifth state in which same-sex marriages are legal, joining Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Iowa.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced the same bill in 2007. It passed in the state Assembly 85-61 but died in the Senate. Passage in the Assembly is again expected, while it remains to be seen whether the bill will get the 32 votes it needs to pass in the Senate.
Among the bill's opponents is the Roman Catholic Church. Just hours after his installation Wednesday as the archbishop of New York, the Most Rev. Timothy Dolan said in his first news conference that he wouldn't shy away from the controversy.
Many of its supporters, however, are confident.
"I absolutely look forward to standing with you, governor, when you sign this wonderful piece of legislation into law," Duane said Thursday morning.
And for many, Paterson's announcement represents a hopeful future. David Kilmnick, CEO of Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth, was present at the announcement. He said he hopes to marry his partner of eight years, "maybe this year."
"It felt like today, for one of the first times, I really mattered, my life really mattered, my family mattered," he said. "I was proud to be a New Yorker today -- to be standing and watching our governor stand up on the side of equality."
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