Governor Cuomo released his Marriage Equality bill into the wilds today, nicely summing up the importance of the bill like this: "From the fight for women's suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind. For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage Equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state—not of religion or culture. When it comes to fighting for what's right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and Marriage Equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story."

The long anticipated proposal would give the same legal rights for same-sex couples who marry as heterosexual couples and would prohibit local clerks from nixing marriage license applications from gay couples. At the same time, however, it throws a bone to religious groups (and recent converts like Republican James Alesi) by exempting them from anti-discrimination laws (so, for instance, a church could refuse to let a gay couple marry in its halls if it wanted).

That last bit is especially useful ammunition, as earlier today Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote a post on his blog ("The Gospel in the Digital Age") comparing the "stampede" to "redefine marriage" to living in China or North Korea where "government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means."

Republicans are expected to have a closed door meeting to discuss the matter and an up-down vote in the State Senate is now expected by the end of the week. At last count the bill is still short two Republican votes before it can pass—God knows that Democrat Ruben Diaz, Sr., won't be voting for it.

Can't wait? You can check out the language of Cuomo's bill right here: