N.Y. Marriage: Hey, You Never Know



“You don’t want to have a battle early on for something you know is controversial,” he said.

The new calculus also includes an encouraging recent announcement from presumptive senate majority leader Dean Skelos, who said in October that, subject to speaking with his Republican conference, he would recommend that the marriage equality bill be brought to the floor for another vote. For the first time, a pathway to marriage equality exists independent of which party controls the senate.

"No matter what the political makeup of the senate, we will work with everybody to do what's right so that all New Yorkers can be equal,” said Brian Ellner, senior strategist for HRC’s Campaign for New York Marriage, in an e-mailed statement. “Both Republicans and Democrats can and should be for equality."

Others, however, parse the bit from Skelos about consulting with his conference. They contend that the majority leader is vested with complete authority, and that any reference to polling his members suggests hedging.

“When a legislative leader says, ‘We’ll see if my conference wants to post it to a vote,’ that’s Albany speak for ‘fuck you,’” said the strategist Stone.

Asked for additional comment on the senator’s position, a spokesman e-mailed, “While Senator Skelos is personally opposed to same-sex marriage, he believes that it should be easier to bring bills to the floor for an up-or-down vote.”

But with the presumptive majority leader in the no column and not a single Republican on record as supporting the bill, forward-looking observers press the practical question of who exactly would champion the measure and bring it to passage under the new leadership.

“In the end, bills of this kind don’t get passed without effective, competent sponsors to navigate them through the system,” said assembly member O’Donnell. “It’s unclear to me who would be the sponsor if to date no Republican senator has said, ‘I want to vote for this.’”

Until now, the marriage equality bill’s lead sponsor has been Sen. Thomas K. Duane, the out Democrat from Chelsea. Although unavailable for comment, his office said through a spokesman that “Senator Duane is confident that marriage equality is ultimately going to win in New York, and he is going to fight to make that happen regardless of which party is in the majority.”

For now, advocates plan to double down on their efforts in 2011. Next up is the annual marriage equality lobby day organized by the grassroots group Marriage Equality New York in Albany. Sponsors hope to amplify their voices in the state capital on February 8.

”Last yea, it was just us,” said MENY board president Cathy Marino-Thomas. “This time we’re bringing our grandmothers, aunts, and cousins.”

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