Roy McDonald became the second Republican state senator to say he would vote yes on the marriage equality bill pending before the state legislature, bringing the number of senators who support the measure to 31, just one vote shy of the number needed for passage.
According to The New York Times, McDonald, who represents the Capital/Saratoga region, told reporters in Albany on Tuesday that, "I think I'm doing the right thing, it's the appropriate thing, and if the public respects that, I'm grateful. If they don't, then I move on."
The announcement from McDonald followed that of his colleague James Alesi, who became the first Republican state senator to voice support for the bill on Monday. Alesi and McDonald both voted against the bill when it failed in the senate in 2009 after passing the assembly.
McDonald announced his support after Gov. Andrew Cuomo submitted a program bill with language that exempts religious institutions from solemnizing or providing facilities for same-sex couples to marry or celebrate weddings, an issue raised mostly by Republican state senator Greg Ball as a reason to oppose the bill. If Republican leadership decides to bring the bill to the floor, it could be voted on before the end of the week and become law 30 days after passing.
In a telephone conversation with The Advocate on Tuesday, Assembly member Daniel O'Donnell, the openly gay lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the assembly, said the religious exemption language included in the governor's bill only makes explicit carve-outs that already exist in the state's Human Rights Law.
"This is only spelling out what already exists in law," he said. "This bill will do nothing to impact on those exemptions as they currently exist. The language that was put into this bill is language that already exists. It is a component of the Human Rights Law. All this bill really does is reference what the current Human Rights Law already says. It is not creating anything additional."
O'Donnell, who said his chamber would vote on the governor's bill, anticipated the process would unfold expeditiously over the next few days.
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