New York Governor David Paterson has signed an adoption bill that allows gay couples to jointly adopt a child, New York-based NY1 reported.

Paterson, a Democrat and a gay ally, signed the bill on Sunday.

The law allows unmarried partners to jointly adopt a child in New York State. The bill also replaces the term “husband and wife” with “married couple.”

Bill sponsors say the law was needed to ensure children get lifelong support, including insurance and benefits, from both adults even in the event couples split.

Gay marriage is not legal in New York. A bill that sought to legalize the institution died in the state Senate last year, despite the governor's support. The state, however, does recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples from other states. Gay marriage is legal in neighboring Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Canada. Bordering New Jersey recognizes gay couples with civil unions.

New York-based activists have rolled out an aggressive campaign to oust senators who voted against marriage equality. Another campaign by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, features Hollywood stars and celebrity politicians urging New Yorkers to support attempts to legalize gay marriage in the state.

Other states limit, or in the case of Florida, outright ban, gay couples' access to adopt.