New York governor David Paterson has said gay marriage will soon be legal in his state.

Paterson was speaking last night at a Manhattan dinner hosted by gay rights group Empire State Pride Agenda.

The bill has already passed the state’s Assembly and will be voted on by the Senate in the next few weeks.

It will then go to Paterson for approval. He cannot force the Senate to pass the bill, but said he was optimistic that it would.

The governor said that gay marriage would be legal “as a result of a law we will pass in the New York Senate, already passed in the Assembly, and will be signed by the governor, just in the next few weeks.”

To cheers, he continued that gay couples would no longer have to worry about issues such as insurance and hospital visitation rights.

The bill passed the New York Assembly 89-52 in May and the Senate is now its final hurdle, as Paterson has said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

The move would make New York the sixth state to legalise same-sex marriage after Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. It was briefly allowed in California until a referendum stripped the right.

Gay marriage has been legalised in Maine but the right is on hold as the state’s voters will decide whether it should be legal in a referendum next month.

In 2007, a similar bill passed the New York Assembly 85-61 but failed in the Senate.