N.Y. Marriage: Hey, You Never Know



On the other hand, even as they acknowledge mounting losses in the public opinion wars, marriage equality foes project confidence with the brute fact that, as of now, no majority exists for marriage equality in the state senate. One such group is the New York State Catholic Conference, which advocates for the public policy agenda of the state’s bishops, who represent some 7.3 million Catholics. Even more than the National Organization for Marriage, which has sought inroads into the state, the conference is seen as a significant obstacle to the marriage equality bill given the historic influence of the Catholic Church in New York.

“You never know until the votes are counted, but right now we’re pretty comfortable that the votes aren’t there,” said Dennis Poust, communications director for the conference. “Until we hear otherwise, we assume that the senators who voted no are still nos.”

However, advocates hope the math will change quickly after the inauguration of governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, a reform-minded Democrat expected to find allies among senate Republicans who share his agenda of fiscal restraint. Cuomo vowed to make marriage equality a “priority” in his campaign against Carl Paladino, the ostracized Republican nominee who seemed to implode after reading antigay remarks before ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders.

“He’s a very adept politician,” said assembly member Daniel O’Donnell, the Manhattan lawmaker who carried the marriage equality bill in his Democratic-controlled chamber. “When you look at where the polling has been and where it has gone, it’s yesterday’s politicians who are against it. Governor-elect Cuomo is a tomorrow kind of politician.”

Previous pro-equality governors met their Waterloo in the legislature, as happened with Eliot Spitzer, the sharp-elbowed former prosecutor and self-declared “steamroller” who resigned because of a prostitution scandal. His weakened successor, Gov. David Paterson, also tangled with the senate, which shut down for a month in summer 2009 when a trio including Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Democrat and outspoken homophobe, orchestrated a coup.

Analysts say that with their reputation for more disciplined leadership, senate Republicans could build a rapport with Cuomo starting on the all-important budget this winter and spring and then move to consider issues like marriage equality, where the gap between the players is wider.

“I think that we’re in a time period now where the government recognizes that the governor and the state senate need to work together and find common ground on a bunch of things and they have to barter back and forth,” said Doherty, who added that he did not expect a marriage equality vote in the first few months of the year.

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