Decision on New York Gay Marriage Bill in Hands of Senate Republicans

NEW YORK – As of Thursday evening, no Republican senators in New York have changed their stance on gay marriage after closed-door meetings with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The gay marriage bill, which Cuomo introduced Tuesday, is one vote short of being approved by the New York State Senate. The controversial legislation has the support of 31 senators, 29 Democrats and two Republicans. It needs 32 votes to pass.

New York would be the sixth and most populous state to legalize gay marriage if the bill is approved by the state Senate.

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The New York State Assembly already approved the same-sex marriage bill Wednesday, 80 to 63.

Democratic leaders in the state are lobbying Republican senators who are thought to be swing votes on the measure.

Cuomo met Thursday evening with three Republican senators – Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), Steve Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) and Kemp Hannon (R-Long Island) – to discuss additional protections for religious organizations who fear they will be sued for not recognizing same-sex couples.

“I’m still a ‘no;’ I’m still talking to people, so I’ll let that speak for itself,” said Lanza after leaving the governor's office Thursday night, according to The Associated Press.

Sen. Hannon who has said he was a firm no vote on the bill did not comment to reporters after the meeting. Saland who said this week he was undecided on same-sex marriage also did not comment after emerging from Cuomo's office.

Saland was reported to be playing a pivotal role for the undecided Republicans, according to the New York Times.

The Democratic governor plans to meet with more Republican senators Friday, the day the gay marriage bill could hit the Senate floor for a vote.

Republicans will continue private sessions Friday on whether to allow a vote on the bill or introduce it altogether. The legislative session ends Monday.

Bloomberg, a supporter of gay marriage, flew to the Capitol Thursday morning to meet with Senate Republicans in an effort to persuade them to allow a vote on the bill.

State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island, who met with both Bloomberg and Cuomo, said Thursday that no decision has been made on whether a vote would take place.

Bloomberg said Thursday that if the bill comes to the floor, he believes it will pass. He said he was basing his opinion on his conversations with senators and not by a headcount.

The mayor also singled out Republican senators who he thinks are possible yes votes: Lanza, Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, who changed his position from no to undecided, and John Flanagan of Long Island, who has said he is a "no" vote.

"This is not an easy issue," said Bloomberg. "I understand there's a lot of pressure on senators from different sides and a lot of concern about what their constituents will think."

Meanwhile, opponents of gay marriage also have been stepping up efforts to lobby Republican senators, especially those thought to be winnable, to hold their ground.

Pro-family and religious groups, including the New York State Catholic Conference, New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and National Organization for Marriage, have mobilized supporters to contact the senators and urge them to vote "no" on the issue.

The New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, which represents over 150 churches that minister to hundreds of thousands of Christians in New York, held a rally Thursday to oppose gay marriage. Event speakers urged the church to stand against same-sex marriage, which they said goes against Scripture, and voiced support for Sen. Ruben Diaz of Bronx, the lone Democrat voting against the bill.

The National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group that fights against same-sex marriage around the country, has pledged $1 million toward primary election challenges against any Republican lawmaker who votes for the bill.

Maggie Gallagher, the group's chairman and co-founder, told The Christian Post on Thursday that the issue of same-sex marriage is a low priority for most New Yorkers. Instead, the legislature should focus on issues that remain key issues to New York citizens: property tax relief and the rent regulations that expired Wednesday.

"The only ones pushing the Senate vote are homosexual advocates or those who have something to gain from it – notably Michael Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo," Gallagher told CP.

"If the legislature really wanted to know where the people stood on same-sex marriage, they should put it to a vote of the people. That way they can get back to working on more pressing issues."

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