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Four major advocacy groups unveiled a new coalition, New Yorkers United for Marriage, to consolidate efforts in preparation for an intense campaign that could lead to the passage of a marriage equality bill by June.
According to a announcement released Wednesday morning, "New Yorkers United for Marriage, an unprecedented alliance that includes Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, and Marriage Equality New York, will build on the growing momentum for marriage and groundwork already laid across the state -- with the goal of enacting a bill before the end of the current legislative session."
"Today, we stand closer than ever to allowing all loving, committed couples to legally marry here in New York," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, in the announcement. "We've sent a loud and clear message during the last two years that supporting the LGBT community isn't just the right thing to do, but it's also good politics, and this unprecedented coalition will amplify that message."
The New York Times first reported on the new coalition, designed to avoid the missteps of 2009. That year the marriage equality bill failed the senate by a vote of 38 to 24 following an effort some critics said was plagued by miscommunication, poor coordination, and rivalries.
This time advocates hope to win by linking their campaign to the popular Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo.
"Under the supervision of the governor's staff, the groups intend to raise more than $1 million for a media blitz, hire a powerful political consultant close to the Cuomo administration and deploy field organizers to the districts of more than a dozen key lawmakers to drum up support, according to interviews with those involved in the effort," reported the Times.
Advocates express strong confidence in Cuomo, who enjoys high approval ratings among voters and has pledged to make a personal push for marriage equality by the end of the legislative session in June. In addition, a recent poll found that a historic high of 58% of voters support marriage equality and a record low of 36% oppose it.
However, Republican support is still required for the bill, which needs six more votes to pass the senate. No GOP senator voted for the bill in 2009, despite being told by leader Dean Skelos that they were free to vote their consciences. This year Skelos, now the majority leader, has gone so far as to say he will allow a vote on the bill pending consultation with his conference, but still no Republican senator publicly supports it.
New Yorkers United for Marriage aims to change that in the coming weeks, according to the group's announcement.
"In New York, LGBT advocates have grown increasingly strategic and effective in the last two years, successfully targeting anti-gay legislators and contributing to the election of pro-marriage senators," said the news release. "The coalition will expand on these successes to ensure that legislators hear from the majority of New Yorkers who support the right to marry."
The Times reports that advocates are focusing on about 15 senators from both parties in their lobbying.
"They are expected to focus on three New York City Democrats who voted against the bill but are considered open to switching sides: Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Shirley L. Huntley and Carl Kruger. Among Republicans, they are looking at about a dozen senators, including Gregory R. Ball of Putnam County, Andrew J. Lanza of Staten Island, and Mark Grisanti, James S. Alesi and Roy J. McDonald, who represent upstate districts," reports the newspaper.
The New York state legislature returns from a two-week break May 2. Advocates plan a major lobby day May 9 in Albany, with hundreds of constituents from across the state.