Ok I understand that we have had the gay marriage conversation many times and while the NY decsion to recognize gay marraige is not a first I do belive it is signifigant.
First NY is the first large state to pass tihis type of legislation. In this case size does matter, with its large geographic area and diverse population from rual to urban I feel that this is the first piece of legislation that truely represents a population base that can be applied across the nation. In some ways a consensus has been reached. While the vote was by nomeans a landslide perhaps america as a whole is ready to turn a corner.
Second this was a republican controled legislature that passed this bill. Typically in America this is the party that has most opposed allowing gay marraige. I think the refocusing of many conservitives from social issues to matters of economy and forigen policy has given republical politicians a bit of wiggle room on social issues.
Timeing is also important here we are about 16 months out from our next presidential and major elections. If the backlash against politicians who voted for this bill is minor or nonexistant then the door will be open for other politicans in the future to do the same. I also believe that many other state legislatures will wait and see the fall out from the new york vote before tackling the issue themselves.
While I belive this issue requires some federal involvement it will require a majority of states to pass similar legislation before that happens. Perhaps NY will be the first of many to do so. I think we will have an answer in early 2013 when new state legislatures occur.