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Live From New York: Marriage Equality Vote


Update 10:00 pm ET -

Governor David Paterson announced shortly after the special legislative session adjourned on Tuesday that the senate leadership, for the first time ever, had promised to hold a vote on the marriage equality bill. The vote was expected before the end of the year.

The governor made the announcement at a press conference upon the conclusion of a two-hour, closed door meeting between marriage equality advocates, Democratic senate leaders and key members including Tom Duane, the openly gay sponsor of the bill, according to the New York Observer.

"This is the first time the Senate leadership has indicated that it will support a vote on marriage equality," said Paterson, the New York Observer reported.

However, none of the three leaders who agreed to hold a vote some time this year attended the press conference. Those leaders are Democratic conference leader John Sampson, senate president Malcolm Smith, and senate majority leader Pedro Espada.

A spokesman for the leadership later confirmed their pledge to the New York Observer.

"There is a commitment to bring the bill to the floor for a vote before the end of the year, and we will commit the full spectrum of our energies to making marriage equality a reality in the state of New York," said the spokesman, Austin Shafran.

Legislators began to leave Albany as the Veteran's Day holiday on Wednesday approached. They are expected to reconvene on Monday, at which point the marriage equality bill will once again be on the agenda for that day, and Tuesday.

Update 7:15 p.m. ET -

Governor David Paterson said that he would call legislators into special session again on Monday and Tuesday, after inaction on the budget and a last-ditch meeting on the marriage equality bill failed to move forward the agenda on Tuesday.

The governor set the decision in light of the Veteran's Day holiday on Wednesday, according to the Albany Times Union.

"Instead, Paterson said he will have 'one or two' leaders' meetings to continue negotiations on the Deficit Reduction Plan. He expects to call legislators into special session on Monday and Tuesday to hopefully pass a DRP plan," reported the Albany Times Union.

It is widely suspected that movement on the marriage equality bill would come only after lawmakers address the budget crisis, the overriding issue of the extraordinary session.

Earlier on Tuesday, an eleventh-hour meeting between marriage equality advocates, senate Democrats and Governor David Paterson seemed briefly to represent a revival for the marriage equality bill, but it turned out to be a last gasp for the day.

Liz Benjamin of the New York Daily News reported on the closed-door meeting between the governor, senators, and representatives from the Empire State Pride Agenda and the Gill Action Fund.

"According to sources close to the fast-and-furious negotiations that have been going on all day, the Democrats now have somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 or 22 'yes' votes -- far too few for the Republicans to make up the difference, even if they [are] disposed to help out at this point, which they decidedly are not," reported Benjamin.

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Pride Agenda, who took the position that an up or down vote should occur, regardless of the outcome. In contrast, Benjamin reported that the Gill Action Fund and Senator Tom Duane, lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the senate, only wanted to see a vote if they knew for sure the bill would pass.

Ultimately, no vote was taken on marriage equality on Tuesday. The legislature adjourned until Monday.

Update 4:40 p.m. ET - Update

As afternoon bled into evening on Tuesday, state senators remained in conference behind closed doors in Albany, where it seemed increasingly unlikely that the marriage equality bill would see the light of a vote.

NY 1 News correspondent Erin Billups reported from Albany that "several sources" told her "the gay marriage bill will not reach the floor today."

In testimony to the sense of flux, Billups continued, "that's not to say that they'll [not] stay here for tomorrow and maybe it will come down then. But right now, they're still in talks about it, and there's no decision about whether or not they will table that bill. But right now, it will not come to the senate floor at this point."

Should the senate not vote on the bill today, it would defy the appeals of elected officials such as Governor David Paterson, who placed the bill on the senate agenda; New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who issued a letter to all 62 members of the state senate urging them to vote on the bill; and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

On Monday, Quinn called the prospect of a marriage equality vote on Tuesday "an incredibly important moment," coming one week after the stinging repeal of marriage equality in Maine.

"It's about a moment where you lift people up, or you drag people down," Quinn said.

Update 2:30 p.m. ET
- New York state senators are conferencing in Albany right now, while The New York Times reports that a vote on the marriage equality bill has been delayed "indefinitely" due to insufficient votes and an overriding focus on the budget for the time being.

"Republicans and Democrats said that as of Tuesday afternoon, the measure was still several votes short of the 32 necessary for approval," The New York Times reported. "About five Democrats remained either opposed or noncommittal, meaning that Republican votes were needed to secure passage. But not enough Republicans have committed to voting yes, legislators said. The Democrats have a 32-30 majority in the Senate."

Senate majority leader Pedro Espada told the newspaper that the measure may see a vote next week.

"We'll come back next week," he said. "That's the scenario that I think is reasonable."

Meanwhile, marriage equality supporters cautioned against conceding defeat in conversations with

Josh Meltzer, spokesman for Empire State Pride Agenda, urged reserving judgment at least until senators emerged from their afternoon conference.

"There are some very passionate people," said Meltzer. "I don't think we can say until they come out of conference. We are continuing to press. We are calling for a vote to happen immediately."

But when exactly a vote would take place today, if one occurs at all, remains an open question.

"This could go on indefinitely," said Brad Usher, chief of staff for Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan, a sponsor of the marriage equality bill. "Who knows? But I don't think we can say for sure that this won't be voted on today."

Update 1:30 p.m. ET - As the New York state senate met for an extraordinary session called by Governor David Paterson on Tuesday, prospects appeared to dim for a potential vote on the long-awaited marriage equality bill, although by early afternoon advocates maintained hope.

Two hours before senators were set to convene at noon, Liz Benjamin at the New York Daily News posted a report, based on one anonymous source close to the negotiations, that no vote would take place on Tuesday.

"It is not coming to the floor," the source told Benjamin.

Hurdles cited included lack of potential support from some Republicans, whose enthusiasm cooled in the wake of the stunning ouster of moderate assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava from an upstate congressional race last week.

While senate Democrats met behind closed doors to discuss the fate of the bill, marriage equality advocates remained determined to pressure senators to bring the measure to the floor.

"I don't think there is a clear yes or no at this point," said Cathy Marino Thomas, board president of Marriage Equality New York, who was in Albany to witness the session.

Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle sounded even more uncompromising in a statement issued Tuesday morning.

"Marriage must get its long-deserved vote today," he said.

Update 12:30 p.m. ET - The extraordinary senate session began around 12:15 p.m. Senators started with a discussion about honoring veterans for Veteran's Day on Wednesday. When Senator Eric Adams, Democrat of Brooklyn spoke, he explicitly connected recognition of veterans and the potential marriage equality vote.

"There is no greater honor we can give our veterans than to ensure that every American, regardless of their gender, has the right to marry," said Adams.

Update 11:25 a.m. ET - Empire State Pride Agenda issued a statement from executive director Alan Van Capelle this morning, saying,"Marriage must get its long-deserved vote today."

Update 11:10 a.m. ET - Cathy Marino Thomas of Marriage Equality New York tells that she and about 30 other advocates are outside the door of the senate's pre-session meeting in Albany, demanding that a vote on marriage equality take place today.

Update 11:00 a.m. ET - Liz Benjamin of the New York Daily News checked in with one source involved in the senate's marriage equality bill negotiations, who said, "It is not coming to the floor."

Update 10:45 a.m. ET - Senator Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan told WNYC-FM's Brian Lehrer moments ago that a senate vote on marriage equality will be close, if it happens at all today.

Last night, Governor Paterson and legislative leaders emerged from a meeting in Albany, where the governor was asked whether he had received assurances from Senator John Sampson, the Democratic conference leader, if a marriage equality vote would take place on Tuesday.

"Well, I didn't specify the day because we're tyring to work on a number of different issues at the same time," said Paterson. "But this is the week that we're back here, and it's on the special session calendar." Watch the video from NYSNYS.

Update 8:40 a.m. ET - Senator Craig Johnson is the only member of the nine-person senate delegation from Long Island who supports the marriage equality bill. Six senators from Long Island are opposed, and two are undecided.

Update 8:00 a.m. ET - The special session is scheduled to begin on Tuesday at noon. Watch senate action here . will be updating you updates throughout the day on the marriage equality vote in Albany. Check back here for updates.

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