The leader of New York's Republican-controlled state senate said lawmakers will return to session in December to pass the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, a move that could bolster Gov. George Pataki's reelection drive. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said Tuesday that the senate will also try to reach deals with Pataki and the Democrat-led state assembly on other bills that have been stuck in legislative limbo for months and even years. Pataki has long called for passage of the gay rights bill but has been criticized for not getting the senate to pass it. SONDA, approved earlier this year by the assembly, would protect gay men and lesbians from abuse, harassment, and discrimination in employment, housing, and public services.
Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said the promise of Republicans' passing the bill is an "election-year gift" to Pataki. The 25,000-member Empire State Pride Agenda, the bill's principal advocate and the largest gay rights group in the state, is expected to announce its gubernatorial endorsement on Friday. "I think this is the breakthrough we've been fighting for for over three decades," said Matt Foreman, ESPA executive director.
In a statement Tuesday, Pataki praised Bruno for bringing the senate back to the legislation. He said he hopes the assembly also returns and that deals can be struck on other bills.