New York State senator Ruben Diaz Sr. and New York State Conservative Party chairman Michael Long, a self-described odd couple, coauthored an op-ed that argues Republicans will pay the heaviest political price if the marriage equality bill passes in the state.
Diaz Sr. is a Pentecostal minister from the Bronx and the only Democrat to oppose the marriage equality bill. Long, a Catholic from Brooklyn, opposes the bill and has pledged to withhold his party's influential endorsement from any Republican who votes for the measure, which since last week has remained one vote shy of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The unlikely duo published their piece in the National Review to clarify a recent statement from Diaz, widely interpreted to declare marriage equality inevitable, and to make a political prediction, or perhaps a warning.
"We both agree, as Senator Diaz said, that if a gay-marriage bill passes it will be because the GOP caved for no discernible good reason at all," they wrote, adding, "If gay marriage passes, it is Republicans across the state who will pay the biggest price."
Since last week, when three Democrats and two Republicans who all voted no in 2009 expressed support, the pressure has mounted on Majority Leader Dean Skelos to bring the bill to the floor and supply the decisive 32nd vote, or likely more to provide political cover. Skelos has delayed any announcement about the bill for days, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that his team and the Republican conference remain engaged in negotiations over the language of religious exemptions in the bill that already passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
In an interesting twist Wednesday, Long changed his position from approval of holding a vote to urging Republican senators not to bring the bill to the floor. The statement would seem to suggest concern that the measure would succeed if it gets a vote.
Cuomo declined to discuss whip counts or the possibility of any private commitments from Republicans on Wednesday, but he did indicate that he and the coalition of advocates maintain a "cautiously optimistic" position. It just so happens to put the decision on the Republican Senate conference in the waning days of a marriage equality campaign for this legislative session that has raised $2 million, more than half of it from Republican donors.
"I believe, as I've said all along, that we crossed a threshold last week when we decided to send the bill up," said the governor. "At that point, we believed, myself and the advocates who've been working on this for many, many years, we believed there was a good chance of victory and we decided to send the bill up. That was a week or so ago."
Republican senators are scheduled to meet in conference again Thursday morning in Albany.