Religious Leaders Voice Support for Same Sex Marriage in NY

Advocates for same sex marriage kicked off the final push to convince enough state senators to legalize gay marriage this session.

Seven hundred and twenty seven priests, ministers, and rabbis signed a letter backing the legalization of same-sex marriage, and many came to the Capitol to make the case to lawmakers. Robb Smith of Interfaith Impact of New York says it’s important to show Senators that there is no one religious view of gay marriage. And he says attitudes about gay marriage have changed.

“This is a real sea change in the way we see human relations,” Smith said. “And we absolutely have a religious obligation to respond to it.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has made gay marriage one of just three or four top priorities he is seeking in the remaining two months of the session, says he’s hopeful that a law could be approved this year.

“I’m optimistic that marriage equality will pass, I think it’s long overdue,” said Cuomo. “I know it’s failed before, but this is a different day.”

A bill to legalize same sex marriage failed on the Senate floor in December 2009 by a vote of 38 to 24.

Cuomo, speaking in his ceremonial office at the State Capitol, says he’ll be taking the issue and the rest of his agenda to the people of the state in the coming days and weeks.

“If it’s left to the hallways in this building, I lose. My opinion is the people lose,” said Cuomo. “So I make my case for legislation by going to the people, which I will be doing.”

Polls show increasing support for same sex marriage.

Ross Levi is the executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay and lesbian rights group. He says his group is working in the districts of senators who voted no on gay marriage in 2009 to encourage supporters to convey their views to their representatives.

“We’re really using every technique we can think of in a democratic system,” said Levi, who says the effort includes leafleting, phone calls, and letters to senators.

And Pride Agenda is working in the halls of the Capitol as well. They plan to bring over 1,000 gay and lesbian couples to the Capitol on Monday to lobby Senators directly.

Both Governor Cuomo and the gay marriage advocates say they don’t have a timetable for passage of the measure, but hope it can be wrapped up by late June.