Standing alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo, three Democratic senators announced Monday that they would support gay marriage, reversing their position from two years earlier. Shortly thereafter, Republican Jim Alesi indicated that he is also prepared to vote "yes." That means the bill needs just two more supporters in the Republican-led state Senate to become law in New York.
Sen. Joseph Addabo and Sen. Shirley Huntley, both of Queens, said the decision to change their positions came down to the changing attitudes of their constituents. Addabo said, as of Friday, he had heard from 6,015 people, 4,839 of whom wanted him to vote in favor of the marriage bill.
"So in the end, that is my vote," Addabo said.
"The numbers have changed," echoed Huntley. "It was 60-40."
Sen. Carl Kruger was more philosophical as he described his turnaround. He's changing "not because he took a poll," but because he "kept an open mind, a pure heart and a keen ear" to the debate. He said he now believes it came down to "right and wrong."
"What we're about to do is redefine what the American family is. And that's a good thing," Kruger said. "The world around us evolves and changes, so do we have to change with it."
Cuomo called the support of 29 of 30 Democrats "a powerful, powerful statement, and it should be."
"I think we have a lot of momentum," Cuomo said. "I think this is an optimum time to bring this vote. Next year is an election year, funny things happen in an election year."
Bronx Senator Ruben Diaz is the lone Democrat opposing the legislation.
Cuomo and gay marriage advocates met after the afternoon press conference. They unanimously decided that now was the time for the governor to release the bill to the Senate, according to Empire State Pride Agenda director Ross Levi.
Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, who opposed gay marriage, said on Monday that he will not try to influence the Senate's GOP members. "If they favor it, I've always said, they can vote for it," he said.
Republican State Senator Jim Alesi, who appeared to agonize over his "no" vote in 2009, met with Cuomo late Monday. He now says that if a bill comes to the floor the way he wants to see it, he will support it. His vote is particularly important because he is the first Republican to vote alphabetically, so how he decides may set the tone for other potential "yes" votes to come out of the woodwork, or stay quiet.