Monday is the last scheduled day of the legislative session in New York, where the marriage equality bill, which remains one vote short of passage, awaits a vote in the Senate.
The deadline gives the senate one more day to hold a vote on the bill, which remains one vote short of passage. Following a series of major breakthroughs last week, 31 senators, including two from the majority Republican Party, support the bill that would make New York the sixth and most populous state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil marriages.
Republican senators, who will decide whether to vote on the Marriage Equality Act and must provide the decisive vote, expressed concerns late last week about the strength of the religious exemptions in the measure. Although neither Senate majority leader Dean Skelos nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly discussed the specifics, the additional exemptions being negotiated are said to be narrow, and the governor has indicated that he believes the matter can be reconciled in accordance with the law to meet his priority of passing the bill this session.
In a telling sign, opponents of the, bill including New York archbishop Timothy Dolan, appear to be focused as much on the exemptions as stopping the legislation. Lawyers for the Catholic Church have met with the governor and the Republican conference, which is also negotiating with Cuomo.
However, the archbishop said in an interview with Albany Talk 1300 Radio Friday, "This is not to be interpreted as a caving in on our side because we are still working to defeat this bill."
No additional exemptions language had been announced as of Monday morning, but insiders said it would likely be presented in a chapter amendment that would need to pass separately from the bill. The chapter amendment would also require approval from the Democratic-controlled Assembly, which passed the marriage equality bill for the fourth time last week. The bill failed in the Senate in 2009.
Public pressure for the Senate to pass the bill continued to mount over the weekend. Hundreds rallied in Union Square in Manhattan Sunday while clergy members and congregants statewide rallied after religious services.
Meanwhile, opponents of the marriage equality bill announced they would present Republican state senators with 63,000 petitions against the bill in the state capital Monday. Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage are expected in Albany in the afternoon with former New York Giants player David Tyree, who recorded a video against the marriage equality bill.
The legislative session, although officially scheduled to end Monday, could extend into the week because of unfinished business including the marriage equality bill and other significant items.