Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
Supporters of same sex marriage met with Governor Cuomo for a closed door strategy session in Albany for more than an hour today. Held in the governor's Executive Chamber, or Red Room, it was described as, "one in a series of many meetings to discuss a marriage equality bill," according to a statement issued by the Governor's office.
The meeting reaffirmed Cuomo's campaign pledge to push for legislation that would legalize same sex marriage in New York State, according to those in attendance.
Cuomo's statement went on to say:
Same-sex couples deserve the right to join in civil marriage, and it is simply unfair to deny them the freedom to make this decision for themselves and their families. To me this is more than just a piece of legislation. This is about the lives of people who I have known for many years, who currently are without the rights to which they are entitled. I look forward to working with lawmakers and stakeholders to make sure that New York joins the growing number of states that allow the freedom to marry for all couples.
The strategy session was called somewhat hastily, with some being told just yesterday that they were invited to meet the Governor today. Today's session comes a day after the Governor met with leaders from New York's Catholic Conference yesterday, who planned to lobby against, "the redefinition of marriage," according to their agenda.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, and State Senator Tom Duane were at today's meeting along with representatives from several groups that advocate for same-sex marriage including the Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, Equality Matters, and the Human Rights Campaign, many of whom described the meeting as a positive step.
"The Governor reiterated his firm personal commitment to getting this done," said Brian Ellner, senior strategist for the New York Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, "we could not have a more supportive advocate on this issue."
"We were pleased to hear Governor Cuomo and other leaders affirm their strong commitment to ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, and putting New York law on the side of families, where New York should be," said Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry, "New Yorkers should not have to go to Niagara Falls, Canada to have the protections they should have in Niagara Falls, New York, and throughout the state."
Advocates are hoping to get a bill passed this year, but many think it's unlikely to come up before the budget season winds down in April (assuming an "on time budget"). A bill that would have legalized same sex marriage was defeated by the State Senate in 2009, when Democrats controlled the chamber. Advocates say they need 6 votes in the Senate for the bill to pass this time around.
While Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos is personally opposed to the legislation, Senate Spokesman Mark Hansen said Skelos plans to discuss the issue with the members of the Republican conference to decide whether to bring it to the floor for a vote. "If it does, it will be a vote of conscience," said Hansen's statement.