People anticipating a vote by the New York Senate on same-sex marriage today, the final day of the legislative session, will likely have to wait. It is now being reported that ongoing negotiations will keep legislators in Albany much of the week.
At stake is whether same-sex couples will be allowed to legally marry and receive all the benefits of marriage given to a heterosexual couple. The bill known as the Marriage Equality Act passed the state Assembly last Wednesday, 80-63.
Now attention is firmly centered on the state Senate, which is the last obstacle standing in the way of marriage being redefined in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo and his staff, along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have led the lobbying efforts in support of same-sex marriage. However, numerous groups such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and individuals who oppose same-sex marriage are also spending the final moments lobbying a handful of senators to remain opposed to the measure.
Republican Senators Mark Grisanti and Stephen Saland are key votes if the bill has any chance of passage. Senator Greg Ball is also saying he is unsure how to vote, and asking for help in deciding his vote through Twitter.
A Senate vote was expected last Friday, but failure to reach a compromise on key issues delayed the vote until today. Republican senators, who asked not to be identified, said the issue was only briefly discussed today in a Senate Caucus meeting. Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos is reportedly negotiating with Gov. Cuomo on religious exemptions that could sway Republicans to give Cuomo the votes needed for passage.
Maggie Gallagher, chairman of NOM, along with Brian Brown, the group’s president, have launched an aggressive effort in opposition to the bill and warned Republican lawmakers that a vote in favor of same-sex marriage would result in consequences in the next election cycle.
This morning groups supporting same-sex marriage formed small circles and sang “God Bless America” and “This Little Light of Mine” in the halls outside the Senate chamber. Groups opposing same-sex marriage countered by singing hymns such as “Victory is Mine.” State troopers were called as the groups started to merge and discuss the issue in the marble hallways of the Capitol.
“This is not about religion, this is about civil rights,” said pro-same-sex marriage supporter Sharon Baum to The Associated Press.
Others, especially religious leaders, disagreed with Baum’s statement.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese remains firmly opposed to the bill. Writing on his blog last week, Dolan said, “Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people,” countering the argument used by homosexuals that compares themselves to blacks fighting for civil rights in the 1950’s and 60’s.
“The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women…death benefits, insurance benefits,” he added. “This is not about denying rights. It is about upholding a truth about the human condition. Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits: It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to procreate.”
Senator Ruben Diaz, a Bronx minister and the lone Democrat still opposed to the bill, said he considers passage of the bill “inevitable” in the near future.