The New York Senate yesterday voted to reject a bill which would allow gay marriage in the state.

It needed 32 votes to pass but gay rights advocates were dismayed that it fell eight votes short in a 24-38 decision.

The bill passed the state’s Assembly in May and governor David Paterson had promised to sign it if it passed the Senate vote.

Paterson said the vote was one of the saddest days of his life and he regretted that senators did not have the “intestinal fortitude” to pass it.

New York city council speaker Christine Quinn, who is a lesbian, told Associated Press: “This is a loss for every family in New York. This is a loss for every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender New Yorker.”

However, Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been lobbying for the gay marriage law, tried to see the disappointment in a positive light.

Executive director Alan Van Capelle said in a statement: “While we are disappointed by today‚Äôs vote, we are pleased that the issue of marriage equality at last was debated in the New York State Senate. We had long called for a public debate on this matter so we could determine who was truly on our side.

“It is a step forward for our democratic process in New York that a debate and vote have now occurred. Now we know where we stand, and where we need to concentrate our efforts in the future.”

This is the most recent disappointment for US gay marriage advocates.

Last month, Maine voters repealed a law which would have allowed marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Last year, California voters did the same. Campaigners in the state had been hoping to contest the decision in 2010 but some of the largest gay groups in California have begun to warn that victory may not be achieved for another couple of years.