NEW YORK – New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Thursday that his Republican caucus will meet later today to discuss the gay marriage bill.
Republican senators have been discussing the issue of same-sex marriage in several meetings but today they are expected to tackle head-on the question of whether or not to allow a vote on the bill.
The gay marriage bill, which was introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, is one vote short of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate. There are 31 committed votes (29 Democrats, 2 Republicans) but 32 votes are needed for the bill's approval.
Republicans in the Senate have been pressing for religious exemptions that would protect religious organizations or individuals from facing legal battles if they refuse to service same-sex couples.
"We’re going to conference the language of the amendments; we’re going to conference the whole issue," Skelos said Thursday morning. "And I expect that that’s going to take a little time."
Skelos did not comment whether the GOP conference would bring out the gay marriage bill for a vote on the floor during the daytime hours or middle of the night, if at all.
"We're not going to do it under time constraints. We're going to do it when the conference is ready," he said.
Protests over gay marriage have been ongoing this week. Opponents of the bill say gay marriage would destroy the traditional family unit, leading to an erosion in society. Christians and Orthodox Jews believe gay marriage is an affront to their religious beliefs that God ordained marriage to be only between a man and a woman. Supporters of the bill are demanding same-sex marriage as a civil right.
The fate of gay marriage could lie in the hands of one of the fence-sitting Republican senators which include Greg Ball of Patterson, Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie and Andrew Lanza of Long Island.
Capitol Confidential has reported that Republicans working on the gay marriage bill have said that a 32rd vote is secured to pass the bill but they refuse to reveal any names.
The Conservative Party has threatened to withdraw its nomination from any Republican senator who votes "yes" on the bill while advocacy groups opposing gay marriage have pledged to mount challenges in the primary elections.
Skelos said Thursday that he is "optimistic" that the omnibus bill, which includes language on the New York rent control laws and property tax caps, can be completed and voted on today.
Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari told Capitol Tonight that the omnibus bill might include the religious exemption amendments to the same-sex marriage bill, making it difficult to for Republicans to vote against.
"It may be part of the omnibus, big ugly if you will. We’d do it all in one bill," he said. "I don’t know that yet, but it may one of the pieces in the puzzle."
Last week, the marriage bill was passed by the New York State Assembly for the fourth time since 2009.
If the legislation on gay marriage is approved, New York would be the sixth and most populous state to allow same-sex couples to marry.