UPDATE: The assembly has passed the Senate’s amendments to the marriage bill, which sets the stage for the bill to quickly become law after the Senate passes it.
ALBANY, N.Y. — After weeks of wondering whether or not Republican New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos would allow the bill legalizing same-sex marriage to come to the floor for a vote, the New York Times’ Albany Bureau Chief, Danny Hakim, tweeted the following:
The bill — which has been altered with strong religious exemptions that would allow not only churches but religiously-affiliated organizations like religious non-profits and fraternal organizations — is now expected to get a vote later today after a floor debate, with a possibility of postponement until Monday.
The bill that would allow two adults of the same gender to wed in New York, giving the couple the same state-bestowed rights and benefits of opposite-sex couples, is expected to have a very close vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, with all but one Democrat pledging to vote for the bill, and only two guaranteed Republican votes. Four are needed to pass the bill.
Senator Reuben Diaz of the Bronx will be the only Democrat to vote against the bill which has already passed the Assembly, but will have to be approved in “Conference Committee” by the Assembly before the Senate’s changes to the law make it to the Governor’s desk. Governor Cuomo has pledged to sign the bill, and has been lobbying for its passage in the legislature over the past few weeks.
Many activists feared Skelos would bar the bill from reaching the floor, which would doom its chances of passage. A similar 2009 bill in New York state was widely expected to pass, but failed by a large margin after Senate leadership shake-ups and a chaotic legislative session. Though the legislative session was expected to end this past Monday, and may yet continue beyond this weekend, this time around the bill has largely been saved from such political theater of two years ago.
Along with the religious exemptions in the bill, meant to protect religiously-affiliated businesses from being forced, under equal access laws, to violate their religious beliefs in solemnizing same-sex unions; the bill was amended with a “non-severability” clause, which forces a court to throw out the entire law if part is found unconstitutional. Assembly leaders have expressed their acceptance of the Senate’s amendments, and the bill is unlikely to face challenges passing through conference committee.
If passed, New York would become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage with a Republican majority in a legislative chamber. New York would also be the largest state to legalize same-sex unions. The law would take effect 30 days after a Governor’s signature.
Hakim tweeted that Skelos is confirming he will definitely allow for a floor vote: