It was just the beginning of an awakening of acceptance that would sweep the country, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported Thursday.
It was nearly midnight on June 24, 2011, when the bill passed. Same-sex marriage became legal in New York.
Danny O’Donnell, the first openly gay man elected to the New York State Assembly, helped spearhead the legislation that was signed into law.
“I lived with death threats for a time. But in the end, even through the bad times of that, I knew what I was doing was the right thing to do,” O’Donnell said.
Once New York’s marriage equality law was passed, more than a dozen states quickly followed suit. New Jersey started allowing same-sex marriages in 2013.
The road to this now basic right was anything but smooth. Various bills passed the assembly, but stalled in the senate.
O’Donnell said he was determined to stay the course.
“If you presented an ambulance at an emergency room, somebody shows up and says, ‘I’m their partner,’ they didn’t know what to do,” he said.
Mary Joe Kennedy and JoAnn Shane were part of a marriage equality lawsuit that began in 2004.
“It was our daughter, who was 14 at the time, that really convinced us. She said, ‘You both taught me to stand up and speak out and do the right thing. So here’s your chance,’” Kennedy said.
The fight was sometimes uncomfortable for this private couple.
“We were out in many, many ways. But I wasn’t totally out in my job. So that was interesting,” Kennedy said.
Thirty days after the New York law passed, these partners were able to call each other “My wife.”
“It was magical,” said Shane. “It was electric. It was exciting. It was pure joy.”
O’Donnell married John Banta, his partner of 30 years, in 2012.
“When you grow up thinking that you’ll never have that right, it becomes an interesting thing once you get it,” O’Donnell said.
The U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015.