The forces pushing a same-sex marriage bill in Albany are watching the goal posts move.
After an orchestrated series of “yes” votes created a sense of unstoppable momentum earlier in the week, they now find themselves stalled just one vote shy of passage in the Senate – and wondering when a vote might come.
It is unlikely to be Friday. And advocates say they are prepared to stay in Albany through the weekend if the Legislature does too. The Assembly passed its version for the fourth time already, so the Senate runs less risk of giving offense to Orthodox Jewish Speaker Sheldon Silver by holding court on Saturday.
The session’s final scheduled day is Monday, so that is presumably also the deadline for a marriage vote as well. But it could also stretch into next week if Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds to his threat to keep lawmakers in session until they expand New York City’s rent laws.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Albany yesterday to encourage Republican senators to vote for gay marriage, but had no progress to report when he emerged from their meeting.
“I didn’t ask whether there’s a holdup. I assume that the bill will come,” the mayor said. “There’s a sense that they will probably bring it up again, and I think if it is brought up there will be enough votes to pass.”
Bloomberg, who gave $900,000 to the Republicans’ successful campaign to retake the Senate last year, asked late Wednesday to speak to the group. He argued that lawmakers know in their hearts that denying same-sex couples the ability to marry is wrong, and appealed to the GOP’s respect for individual rights.
“Ten or 20 or 30 years from now, each of us will look back at only a handful of moments that defined our careers in public service. I think this is one of those moments,” he said. “I just asked them to follow their hearts and their principles.”
Some advocates appreciate the mayor’s work but concede he has been largely ineffectual in Albany so far. They held out hope he could have some sway over Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza, who remains opposed to it.
Lanza, Sen. Kemp Hannon and Sen. Steve Saland met with Cuomo in his office late yesterday to discuss the marriage bill, among other issues. Hannon and Saland were mum on marriage afterward but Lanza emerged to say he could not support a gay marriage bill unless its religious exemptions were strengthened.
Cuomo has given no indication he will change the bill as it is written, which the Assembly approved yesterday after three prior votes in years past. The bill’s religious exemptions are stronger than those in the previous marriage bill in 2009, advocates said.
“I don’t know anyone, any good person, who would disagree that we wouldn’t want to create a situation where people’s beliefs are threatened or challenged by anything we do,” Lanza said.
The governor did not, Lanza noted, try to change his position on the issue.
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