The New York Assembly has approved a gay marriage bill, setting the stage for a crucial Senate vote on Friday.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly passed the bill by 80-63 votes yesterday.

In the Senate, the bill’s chances hinge on just one vote. Thirty-one of the 62 Senators have said publicly they will back the bill.

The ongoing political controversy around gay marriage means some lawmakers still see backing – or not backing – the issue as a risky option ahead of the 2012 elections.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has promised to legalise gay marriage, last night praised Assembly members for their “courage”.

Speaking after the vote, he said: “The vote by the state Assembly has moved New York one step closer to making marriage equality a reality.

“I applaud these legislators’ prompt and courageous support on this measure, which will finally allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry and provide them with hundreds of rights that others take for granted.”

Mr Cuomo said previously he would not introduce the bill until he was sure it would pass. A 2009 bill suffered a surprise defeat after support levels were over-estimated.

This bill does not offer protection to individuals who refuse to officiate or provide services to gay weddings. However, religious groups are not obliged to perform the ceremonies.

If the bill passes, it will come into law 30 days after the governor signs the legislation, making New York the sixth US state to allow gay couples to marry.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington DC currently have marriage equality. California’s ban is under review