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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The timing could not have been better for gay activists.

(Soundbite of cheering)

New York City's annual gay pride parade was scheduled for yesterday, long before anyone could've known it would turn out to be a rolling victory party. On Friday, New York became the largest state in the nation to legalize gay marriage. Lindsey Katt was one of thousands celebrating the news.

Ms. LINDSEY KATT: I feel a huge sense of joy, although I must say there is a resounding feeling of we've won the battle, but now need to keep working to win the war.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Indeed, those celebrating and those who are not are trying to sort out just how the battle in New York will affect that larger war. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH: For one rare moment, the passage of gay marriage in New York left both sides in the debate saying essentially the same thing.

Unidentified Man #1: This is unquestionably huge news, not only in New York but nationwide.

Unidentified Man #2: It's the Big Apple, so of course it has national implications.

SMITH: The only thing distinguishing gay marriage advocate Richard Socarides from opponent Matt Barber from the Liberty Counsel is that Socarides was smiling and flush with hope that New York's bipartisan vote in a Republican-led Senate will encourage more lawmakers elsewhere to support gay marriage as well.

Mr. RICHARD SOCARIDES (President, Equality Matters): I think it's a substantial shot in the arm to the marriage equality movement. And each of these moments, each of these victories feeds off of and contributes, you know, substantially to the next one.

SMITH: Public opinion polls now show a majority of Americans for the first time in favor of gay marriage. And as thousands of same sex couples begin to marry in New York, Yale Law School Professor William Eskridge says it'll further erode opposition.

Professor WILLIAM ESKRIDGE (Yale Law School): Nothing triggers reconsideration more effectively than the living lives of lesbian and gay couples. The more interactions Americans have with same sex couples, the more Americans will accept same sex marriage.

SMITH: Opponents, of course, take a less sanguine view of it. New York may be been huge, they say, but gay marriage is about to hit a wall since there are just a handful of states left without a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Mr. MATT BARBER (Director of Cultural Affairs, Liberty Counsel): The homosexual activist lobby may have grabbed the last of the low hanging fruit here, in yet another, you know, northeastern blue state.

SMITH: Matt Barber with the Liberty Counsel is hoping New York will be a wake up call and mobilize conservatives.

Mr. BARBER: It's not the end of the marriage debate. It's not even the beginning of the end of the marriage debate.

SMITH: Opponents are vowing to make good on their warnings, that lawmakers who voted for gay marriage will not survive the next election. And they're pushing for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to be put to New York voters. Brian Brown is with the national organization for marriage.

Mr. BRIAN BROWN (President, National Organization for Marriage): This is such an important issue. This is the type of issue that the voters themselves should decide and it shouldn't be decided by legislators who can be bought or sold. And in every state this is put to a direct vote, marriage has won.

SMITH: Ultimately, the war over gay marriage may be won in court, where challenges to the federal and state defense of marriage acts are underway. Advocates are hoping the New York decision reverberates there as well. As one put it, the argument against gay marriage hinges on the idea that it's just not the way things have been done. With a state like New York now joining the list of those doing it, he says, that argument carries much less weight.

Tovia Smith, NPR News.

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MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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