NY Republicans Weigh Marriage Equality
The legalization of gay marriage in New York now falls squarely on the shoulders of Republican state senators under intense political pressure from the important Conservative Party and internal polling that shows growing, but not necessarily majority, support for same-sex marriage.
They know that not just the national gay marriage movement, but their own careers, may hinge on their vote.
But before that vote can happen on Thursday or Friday, the Republicans will return to a closed-door caucus to decide whether to send Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bill to the Senate floor. The vote on the bill appears to be a tie, with at least two Republicans saying they are undecided.
Approval of the measure late Wednesday night by the Democrat-led Assembly only compounded the political pressure as national advocates camp out in Albany for the vote they hope will put the gay marriage campaign back on track in other states. The legislative session is scheduled to end Monday.
"The vote by the state Assembly has moved New York one step closer to making marriage equality a reality," Cuomo said after the 9:15 p.m. vote. "I applaud these legislators’ prompt and courageous support on this measure, which will finally allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry and provide them with hundreds of rights that others take for granted."
It was the third time the Assembly dominated by New York City Democrats passed a gay marriage bill in recent years.
"I was discriminated against as a woman, a Jew, and as a lesbian ... and it was equally wrong in all instances," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick of Manhattan.
She said she and her partner have been denied numerous legal rights, and that it has been emotionally painful, while also costing her tens of thousands of dollars because they weren’t legally married.
Several Republicans and some Democrats said their religious convictions prohibit them from supporting gay marriage.
"What we are doing today is not right," said Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, a Republican representing Orange and Rockland counties. "We are changing the institution of marriage ... this is a day I will remember as a day when the state of New York and its constitution lost something, and I’m very sorry that is about to happen."
"If you want to believe in a book and that God tells you what to think, knock yourself out," said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly and brother of entertainer Rosie O’Donnell. "But do not throw that book in my face."
"This is about equality," he said, noting some of his colleagues had been married "two or three times" while he can’t.
While the Assembly passed the bill by a closer than expected 80-63 margin, it was some solace to advocates who had hoped for a quick approval. Cuomo had sent a "message of necessity" order that would have allowed the Assembly and Senate to pass the bill into law as early as Wednesday, rather than waiting three days for public review.
In the Senate, Republican senators wouldn’t say much about their discussion in a four-hour meeting behind closed doors on Wednesday. But those who did said their concerns about protecting religious groups through so-called "carve-outs" haven’t been satisfied.