New Yorkers Celebrate Historic Vote for Gay Marriage

June 24: Revelers bring out their banner to celebrate the passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher St. in New York.

June 24: Revelers bring out their banner to celebrate the passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher St. in New York.  (AP)

NEW YORK -- Champagne corks popped, rainbow flags flapped and crowds embraced and danced in the streets of Manhattan's Greenwich Village on Friday night moments after the New York Senate gave final approval to same-sex marriage, igniting wild celebrations at the Stonewall Inn, considered the birthplace of the gay rights movement.

Hundreds gathered inside and outside the landmark bar, where protests over a 1969 police raid helped trigger the movement. Shortly before midnight, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill to make gay marriage legal in the country's most populous state.

Scott Redstone and his partner of 29 years, Steven Knittweis, were in the bar when the vote came in. Redstone, 57, said he and his 48-year-old partner hugged after the vote came in. "I said, `Will you marry me?' And he said, `Of course!"' He said they walked home and popped open a bottle of champagne.

Alex Kelston, 26, who works in finance in Manhattan, said he hopped in a cab and rushed to the bar when he heard the news.

"This is the place where the movement started and it's a way to close the loop and celebrate the full equality of gay people in New York," he said.

On June 28, 1969, violent encounters between police and gay activists outside the bar known as the Stonewall riots helped spark the modern-day movement for equal rights for homosexuals.

"I am spellbound. I'm so exhausted and so proud that the New York State Senate finally stood on the right side of history," said Queens teacher Eugene Lovendusky, 26, who is gay and said he hopes to marry someday.

He then repeated a chant he had screamed during a protest at a fundraiser for President Barack Obama last night: "I am somebody. I deserve full equality."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was mid-sentence at a press conference on the city budget when City Council Speaker Christine Quinn interrupted him to announce that the marriage bill had passed.

The room erupted in cheers from other lawmakers and staff, as Quinn -- the first gay person to hold the job -- embraced her colleagues and smiled, tears welling in her eyes.

"It's hard to describe the feeling of having the law of your state changed to say that you ... are a full member of the state and that your family is as good as any other family," she said.

In a way, the decision will change everything for her and her partner, Quinn said.

"Tomorrow, my family will gather for my niece's college graduation party, and that'll be a totally different day because we'll get to talk about when our wedding will be and what it'll look like, and what dress Jordan, our grand-niece, will wear as the flower girl. And that's a moment I really thought would never come," she said.

"I really can't really describe what this feels like, but it is one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life," she said.

Bloomberg called the vote "a historic triumph for equality and freedom."

He said he would support the Republicans who voted for the measure Friday, and said he believed their actions were consistent with GOP ideals of liberty and freedom.

"The Republicans who stood up today for those principles I think will long be remembered for their courage, foresight and wisdom," said the mayor, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent. "Ten, 20, 30 years from now, I believe they will look back on this vote as one of the finest and most proud moments in their life."

Bloomberg, a billionaire who had lobbied in Albany for the measure along with Quinn, has the personal resources to help the Republicans withstand any backlash from their own party.

Celebrities also responded, with Lady Gaga posting on Twitter that she "can't stop crying." The pop star has been urging her 11 million followers to call New York senators in support of the bill.

"The revolution is ours to fight for love, justice+equality. Rejoice NY, and propose. We did it!!!" she also posted.

Talk show host Wendy Williams posted to her Twitter followers as well, saying: "Yay for Gay Marriage! NY, it's about time... jersey we're next! How you doin?"