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After a Surge of Momentum, Same-Sex Marriage Bill Stalls

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gay pride flag (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

As the week draws to a close, advocates and legislators on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate say they are uncertain when — or if — the bill that had built so much momentum on Monday will actually come up for a vote in the state Senate by June 20, the end of the legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged Thursday after the second day of Republican conferencing on the topic, saying once again that the party is unresolved on the issue.

"The conference will continue to discuss the issue throughout the day, and other issues too, like rent stabilization,” said Skelos, referring to the expiration of state rent regulations after the Senate failed to pass a bill to extend them. The issue has competed for the Senate’s attention over the last couple days.

What's at Stake

Lobbyists against same-sex marriage say the issue is coming down to re-election prospects for Republicans, who are worried a yes vote will bring the wrath of the state Conservative Party and other gay marriage opponents.  

"Anybody who votes for this is going to be a target," said Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical organization lobbying against gay marriage. "If the Republicans cave on this one, they're going to lose control of the Senate. They will be in the minority for probably decades to come."

The same-sex marriage bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced Tuesday and passed through the Assembly Wednesday by 80 to 63, remains stalled in the Senate by just one vote. So far, 29 Democrats and two Republicans support the bill's passage.

Support Grows for Bill

Three Democrats who had voted against same-sex marriage in 2009 – Joe Addabbo and Shirley Huntley of Queens and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn – declared their support for same-sex marriage on Monday.

The same day, Senator Jim Alesi of Rochester became the first Republican to announce his intended yes vote. Republican Roy McDonald of Rennselaer County joined the list on Tuesday, and the Senate vote tally in favor of same-sex marriage has remained at 31 since.

At least one Republican Senator — Greg Ball of Putnam County — said he will only vote for the bill if it includes more aggressive exemptions for individuals and "any tax-exempt organizations" who do not want to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, lease space for them or perform other services if they have moral reservations about the gay marriages.

The legislation needs 32 senate votes to pass.  

A Hold Up

When asked if the Senate will give itself more time to vote on same-sex marriage by going into an extended session next Tuesday and Wednesday, Skelos responded, "God only knows."

"There's no hold-up," said Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island who is on the short list of senators who might also vote yes on the bill. "We're having a great discussion. We're moving forward. We're addressing this very important issue in the way it should be addressed — with intelligence, with concern. We want to get this right."

And lobbyists for same-sex marriage say there is no lag of momentum over the bill — the seeming delay is just business as usual in Albany. 

"Anybody who knows the end of session in Albany knows that this is not unusual," said Ross Levi, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights organization. "There's a whole lot of issues that have to get done in a short period of time. But we know that this issue remains active, and we are hopeful and expectant that our elected officials will do the right thing."

Bloomberg Makes a Pitch

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made another trip to Albany Thursday to throw his weight behind the bill. He spoke with Republicans for less than an hour and said he urged them to vote with "their hearts and principles."

Bloomberg said he has personally spoken with Republicans still supposedly undecided – Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, John Flanagan of Suffolk County and Mark Grisanti of Buffalo.

"I've never fit perfectly into either party," said Bloomberg, an independent. "But to me, one of the virtues of the GOP has always been its efforts to promote freedom. The Republican Party stands for personal liberty and freedom. I see marriage equality as entirely consistent with that."

Bloomberg added that he's convinced the bill will become law – as long as it gets to a vote.

"I think in the end, if this bill comes to the floor, and I expect it to do so, it will pass and it will have more than just the bare majority necessary to pass it," said Bloomberg.

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Comments [4]

Dorothy from Manhattan

Lots of news about same sex marriage. Not a peep about the expiration of rent laws.
A lot of us will be moving to NJ or Penna when rent is increased by 300-400%. I'm thinking of Philadelphia -- Hello WHYY!

Jun. 17 2011 02:13 PM
Nora Rocket from Queens

I'm with JM, at least in part, on this: who thinks this was momentum? Projecting confidence is one thing - empty swagger is another. It's an R-led Senate with a party leader, Skelos, who doesn't want marriage equality; therefore, he'd be a pretty fine "whip" for any Rs who are thinking of wavering from the party line (few as they are). In the meantime, as the session stumbles to a close (as they all seem to in Albany...), the "undecided" Republicans (two of them still, yes? Both Catholics from conservative districts? Riiiiiight, big chance for flip there) get lots and lots of attention, lots and lots of press as they "think" about it. The easiest solution for them is to wait it out and vote no, saying something about party leadership and something about constituency (the "inertia" approach). Then they're safe for another campaign - and the ultimate goal of any politician (save perhaps one - thank you Roy "I don't give a f***" McDonald) is to be reelected. After the next election/reelection cycle, the tide may turn farther in favor of equal protection under the law - but for now, the NO votes can go back to their voters, like amandafierro perhaps, and say "I just didn't think it was time, I just don't think it's right, I just need another term to do your Good Works in the statehouse" and be rewarded.

I had & have more hope for Bloomberg's money than I had for Cuomo's confidence. I do not think this will pass this session. And I say that as a legally married woman who just took all of her family, all of her wife's family, and ALL OF THEIR MONEY (hotels, food, coffee, travel, venue, catering, decor, flowers, etc etc etc etc) to Iowa for a legal wedding. You snooze, NY, you lose.

Jun. 17 2011 10:01 AM
JM

One thing we've seen in this week's Albany farce around the marriage equality bill is that the media has no shame at all in playing the game of ignoring reality to create a good story. Even on the more-reliable-than-most WNYC, I've heard breathless reporting on legislative momentum, endless repetition of the current vote count, breaking-news reports of some senator piously announcing his intention to vote one way or the other, all as if they actually believed that any of this political puppet-show means anything at all.

Everyone knows that only one vote means anything: If Dean Skelos wants it, it'll pass. If not, it won't. And Skelos will never do anything to offend the Conversative Party. Game over.

But that wouldn't make nearly so interesting a story, I guess.

Jun. 17 2011 09:12 AM
amandafierro from us

Same-sex marriage should NOT be legalized. I think it’s interesting and a bit encouraging that the Assembly vote was so close. 80-63 when the Dems hold a 100-48 majority? Anyway, I hope the senate doesn’t even bring this nonsense to a vote. http://bit.ly/me7aow

Jun. 17 2011 03:09 AM

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