Pressure Mounts For Senators On Marriage Equality Bill
With just days until the current legislative session ends in Albany, New York politicians are sizing up a same-sex marriage bill and deciding where they fall on the issue, leading to a tense atmosphere in which Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a vote will take place before next Monday. NY1’s Erin Billups filed the following report.
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It’s the start of the final full week of the legislature's session, and momentum is growing to pass a same-sex marriage bill. Every Senate Democrat — with the exception of The Bronx's Ruben Diaz — has agreed to vote in favor of gay marriage along with one Senate Republican.
Now, everyone’s looking to the other 31 GOP senators to see whether they will move the measure forward.
In 2009, Republican Senator Jim Alesi helped start the avalanche of ‘nos’ that defeated the same-sex marriage bill.
“It was a very anguishing vote for me,” said Alesi.
The senator said the 2009 vote, which came before an election year, was bad timing.
“I was supporting a conference vote that I thought at the time was necessary when we were in the minority,” said Alesi.
After meeting with the governor and gay marriage advocates Monday, Alesi said he will vote 'yes' for gay marriage as long as religious groups are protected in the bill.
“That they will not be forced to perform weddings they feel they cannot do, then I will be comfortable with the bill,” said Alesi.
Language protecting religious freedoms was in the 2009 bill and will be in this year’s legislation.
Alesi’s support came shortly after three Senate Democrats from New York City who also voted the bill down last time — Shirley Huntley, Joe Addabbo and Carl Kruger — announced with their conference and the governor that they would support a gay marriage bill.
“With such a large number of constituents in favor of marriage equality, that is the reason I decided to vote for it,” said Huntley.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and advocates say the momentum is building, putting the ball in the GOP’s court.
“I’ve had enough conversations with enough legislators,” said Cuomo. “I believe the votes are there.”
Senate Republicans made no promises, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said only that they will decide as a conference whether the bill goes to the floor for a vote.
“I’ve said that from the beginning I’m not going to make it, you know, a party vote, a conference vote,” said Skelos.
Senate Republicans plan to discuss the gay marriage bill tomorrow. The governor’s bill is expected to be introduced tonight.