BY Kerry Eleveld
September 03 2009 3:25 PM ET
Although Paterson would set the agenda for the session, there’s still no guarantee that the marriage bill would get to the floor for a vote. Once the senate “gavels in” to the session, the governor cannot force a vote on the marriage measure, according to spokespeople in his office.
But Senator Duane, who would carry the bill, said once legislation is put on the “active list” of agenda items for a session, it should go straight to the rules committee and then directly to the floor for a vote -- “de facto,” as he put it.
“When it is put on the agenda, I am very optimistic that it will pass,” Duane said, expressing confidence that he had the 32 votes necessary to put the bill on the governor’s desk. “I am confident that if people are voting their consciences -- their hearts -- and politics doesn't interfere, we'll have marriage in New York state.”
Since Democrats narrowly control the senate 32-30, and some Democrats have said they will not vote for the bill, passage will require a handful of GOP votes. Sources familiar with Republican circles say the GOP leadership still intends to let their members take a vote of conscience on a same-sex marriage bill, which increases the likelihood that the measure would pass.
But even Senator Duane would not guarantee a vote on the bill.
“It’s Albany,” he said. “I’m optimistic that we will put politics aside. But it’s been an incredibly difficult year. I’m not 1,000 percent sure that's behind us yet.”
Governor Paterson also acknowledged that he would need the cooperation of the Democratic leadership -- senate president Malcolm Smith and majority leader Pedro Espada Jr. -- to make a vote happen.
“I will be talking to them about what they plan on doing,” he said. “In the end, I can’t bring the bill to the floor. We will need the leadership of the senate, and we’ll need bipartisan support to pass the bill.”
Even as Senator Duane has insisted that he has the votes to pass the bill, Smith said earlier this year that he would not bring a marriage bill to the floor unless he was certain it would succeed. However, Espada has shown a greater willingness to bring marriage equality legislation to the floor.
“I am for same-sex marriage,” Espada said in a June radio interview, shortly after he had switched to the other side of the aisle in a move that briefly gave Republicans a majority in the senate. During the interview, Espada discussed potentially bringing the bill to a vote with the GOP majority. Espada could not be reached for comment for this article.