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State lawmakers back gays’ bereavement leave

ALBANY — New York businesses would have to extend funeral and bereavement leave to unmarried same-sex couples under a bill passed by the Legislature and awaiting Gov. David A. Paterson’s signature.

The bill, which passed the Assembly 107-26 this month and the Senate by voice vote on Monday, prohibits discrimination by employers in the state who provide such leave to other workers and would take effect 60 days after signing.

Paterson has been a strong advocate of gay rights, including same-sex marriage; he will review the bill when it reaches his desk, spokesman Morgan Hook said Tuesday.

Same-sex couples who get legally married in Massachusetts, Canada and some other places are entitled to government benefits like married couples under New York law.

But sponsors of the bill said bereavement leave also should be available to same-sex couples who haven’t left the state to marry but are in “a committed relationship,” defined as “a long-term relationship characterized by emotional and financial commitment and interdependence.”

“Enlightened companies with domestic partnership policies now allow this type of funeral or bereavement leave,” said a memo by the sponsors, including Assembly member Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat.

Similar bills have been introduced since 1998.