ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York state moved closer Tuesday to lifting its ban on paid surrogacy agreements, in which a woman is compensated for carrying someone else's child, after the state Senate approved the measure.
Dozens of supporters of the legislation, including television host and producer Andy Cohen, traveled to Albany for the vote, which comes a week before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the bill, but it hasn't been scheduled for a vote in the Assembly.
New York and Michigan are now the only two states that expressly forbid paid surrogacy agreements. Critics of the ban say it forces would-be parents — including same-sex couples and those who are infertile — to find surrogates in other states, an expensive and difficult process unavailable to many.
"I was floored, shocked, amazed, gobsmacked that this is illegal in my home state," said Cohen, who has a son born to a surrogate in California. "It seemed draconian."
The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Manhattan Democrat Brad Hoylman, himself has two daughters born to a surrogate.
"Unfortunately, under the current law, my husband and I had to travel 3,000 miles to California to build our family," he said. "It's time we fix that for LGBTQ families and any intended parent grappling with infertility."
Opponents of the bill include the Catholic Church and some advocates for women, who argue that it could lead to the exploitation of low-income women.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem released a letter on Tuesday urging lawmakers to keep the ban in place.
"Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others," Steinem wrote.
Several provisions in the legislation are designed to protect the rights of surrogates, including requirements that they be 21 or older and have independent legal representation.
To prevent legal fights over custody, the bill sets out a process that would allow intended parents to obtain a court judgment certifying they are the child's parents before the child's birth.
The Senate also passed Tuesday another bill sponsored by Hoylman that would eliminate the so-called gay panic defense. Under current law, a person accused of attacking or killing a person who is gay, lesbian or transgender can argue in court that they acted out of extreme emotional distress after learning about their victim's sexuality.
The legislation would state that such an excuse cannot be considered a "reasonable explanation" for a violent crime. The bill wouldn't preclude a defendant from offering up another justification for their actions.
Cuomo said both bills are among his top priorities for the rest of the session, set to end June 19.