June 16, 2011 at 6:23 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
N.Y. poised to legalize same-sex marriage

Andrew Cuomo

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has submitted a marriage equality bill for the New York state legislature to pass. (Photo by Pat Arnow, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State needed just one more vote to ensure its passage as of late Wednesday, and political observers predicted it would pass by a one or two vote margin if Republican members of the State Senate allowed it to come up for a vote.

The New York Assembly, which is controlled by liberal-leaning Democrats, has passed a same-sex marriage bill several times before and voted again in favor of the measure 80-63 late Wednesday.

With the legislature scheduled to adjourn for the year on Monday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a strong supporter of the measure, met on Wednesday with LGBT leaders and other supporters to map out a last-minute game plan for pushing the bill through its final hurdle.

Hopes by supporters that the hurdle would be cleared on Wednesday were dashed when GOP members of the Senate, who hold a 32-30 majority in the chamber, did not take an expected caucus vote to allow the bill to come up on the Senate floor for a debate and vote.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) told reporters in the state capital in Albany that Republican senators would resume a discussion on the bill on Thursday. But he gave no further details.

Skelos, who opposes the bill, has long said he would allow it to come up for a vote. It could not be immediately determined whether he was wavering on that commitment. Political observers have said the majority leader in the State Senate traditionally has exercised almost unilateral power to decide whether to bring bills to the floor for a vote.

“I believe that votes will be there for marriage equality if the vote happens,” the New York Times quoted Cuomo as saying on Monday.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which lobbies against same-sex marriage bills across the country, has stated on the group’s website that he remains confident that opponents will retain enough votes to defeat the bill.

“What the governor is attempting to do is create a myth of inevitability,” he told the Times. “I don’t think the votes are there.”

But supporters say momentum for passing the bill was growing during the past week. On Monday, three Democratic senators whose support was uncertain earlier in the year announced they will now vote for the measure. Earlier this week two Republican senators announced their support for the bill.

With all but one of the Senate’s 30 Democrats saying they will vote for the bill, just three Republicans are needed to ensure its passage if Skelos allows the bill to come to the floor for a vote. With two Republicans already lined up, supporters say they expect at least one and likely two more Republicans to vote for the measure.

A coalition of LGBT organizations campaigning for the marriage bill has been working full-time over the past several weeks to line up support for the bill in the Senate, according to Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, one of the coalition’s partners along with the Empire State Pride Agenda and other groups, including Log Cabin Republicans.

“Phone banks have taken place in several places across the state,” Rouse said in an HRC blog posting. “Field organizers with clip boards and postcards in hand have talked to voters at shopping centers, on main streets, on college campuses, at farmers’ markets, festivals and beaches, in places of worship, in nightclubs, on train platforms and on doorsteps,” he said. “It is this person-to-person conversation that is having an impact.”

In a separate development, the Assembly voted 78-53 on Tuesday to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would amend the state’s non-discrimination law to protect transgender people from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit.

The action marked the third time the Assembly has passed a transgender non-discrimination measure. However, similar to past years, political observers in Albany expect the bill to die in the GOP-controlled Senate, where a clear majority of senators opposes it.

Supporters of the marriage bill were hopeful that President Obama would join in their celebration of its passage on June 23, when the president is scheduled to attend an LGBT fundraiser for his re-election campaign in Manhattan.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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