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DECISION TIME All Eyes on Senate in New York

DECISION TIME All Eyes on Senate in New York


The New York State legislature could adjourn as early as Wednesday, but it remains unclear whether the state Senate will bring the marriage equality bill to a vote.

Republican state senators, in whose power the decision rests, are scheduled to meet Wednesday morning in Albany, where they could decide whether to bring the marriage equality bill to the floor for a vote. Since last week, the bill, which would legalize same-sex civil marriage in New York, has stood one vote shy of passage in the Senate, where the decisive vote must come from a Republican. The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed the bill for the fourth time last week.

On Tuesday, lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo made progress on other outstanding business, leaving marriage equality as the final major item on the agenda. The Republican majority and the governor are said to be negotiating the religious exemptions in the bill, although language has yet to materialize.

Cuomo told reporters Tuesday evening that he remained "cautiously optimistic" the bill would pass. Saying that New York was "on the cusp of historic progress," he urged senators to vote, saying that the people were entitled to an up-or-down vote.

That sentiment seemed different from the governor's earlier statements that he and advocates only wanted a vote that would succeed, but Cuomo maintained that his words expressed a long-held strategy of turning up the heat on the issue.

"We early on said we're not going to advance a bill unless we're confident that it has a good chance of success," he said. "Not that you know it's going to succeed, because you never know until the vote is actually cast. But we've reached the point, the threshold where we believe there was a high likelihood of success, we felt good about the chances of success, so then we moved the bill."

Last week, when Cuomo produced five more Senate votes for the bill, including three Democrats and two Republicans who voted no in 2009, the political burden shifted to the Republicans. The conference, which holds a slim 32 to 30 majority, must make a calculation that balances conscience and its political future.

Anticipation of a decision follows a day marked by rallying for the bill, with an estimated 500 advocates from across the state brought to Albany in less than 24 hours' notice by the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition. The crowd heard from elected officials including James Alesi, the first Republican state senator to announce his support for the marriage equality bill.

More crowds, many from the religious perspective, are expected once again at the capitol Wednesday when the issue culminates on what may be the last day of the legislative session. The National Organization for Marriage, which issued a slanted poll Tuesday, is calling for demonstrators, and New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group representing Protestant evangelicals that also opposes the bill, has announced an appearance at the state capitol by an "ex-gay" spokesman, Anthony Falzarano.

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Julie Bolcer