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Senate Set for Gay Marriage Vote – Updated with Votes

December 2, 2009

Looks like we’re headed to a big vote in Albany. Here’s the story:

ALBANY — The State Senate scheduled a vote for Wednesday about whether to legalize same-sex marriage, but the outcome remained uncertain with people on both sides of the debate conceding they did not know how the vote would play out.

By clearing the path for a vote, Senate Democrats have removed the last remaining obstacle for a debate on the same-sex marriage bill, which has never been put to a vote in the Senate despite repeated efforts by gay rights advocates.

But Democrats, who have a bare, one-seat majority, do not have enough votes to pass the bill without some Republican support.

Senate Republicans said Wednesday morning that they believed their members could provide a few votes for the bill, but it was not certain whether those votes would be enough to offset the handful of Democratic no votes that are anticipated.

“There may be a few, that’s very possible,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous of Binghamton, the deputy Republican leader who said he will vote against the bill. “Everybody’s feeling is get it on the floor and let’s vote it up or down. It’s been talked about enough. Let’s get it done. I think it’s going to be very close.”

Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents Manhattan’s Upper East Side and is one of the bill’s sponsors, said she was optimistic the bill would pass, but added, “It depends on whether Republican votes are delivered.”

If the legislation passes, New York would become the sixth state where marriage between same-sex couples is legal or will soon be permitted. If it fails, New York would become the latest state where gay rights advocates have made considerable progress only to see their hopes dashed.

Last month Maine became the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a referendum. The Maine State Legislature had voted to legalize same-sex unions earlier this year, but opponents of gay rights gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Last year, California voters repealed same-sex marriage after the State Supreme Court said that gay couples had the right to marry.

Unlike in Maine, however, New York does not have a referendum process that allows voters to overturn an act of the Legislature.

If the measure passes on Wednesday, it would probably become law quickly and would be nearly impossible to reverse.

The State Assembly has already approved the legislation, and Gov. David A. Paterson has said he will immediately sign the bill once it makes it to his desk.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, the Assembly voted 88 to 51 to allow same-sex marriage. Though the Assembly has already passed the bill twice, a quirk in New York’s legislative code required the Assembly to pass the bill again before the governor can sign it.

As the vote approached — Senate officials said they expected it to take place in the early afternoon — advocates on both sides of the debate were pushing ahead with a last-minute effort to shore up support.

“We’re working it as hard as we can,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side and who supports same-sex marriage. “It feels very good right now. It feels like its going to happen. But this is an issue where some people don’t want to declare themselves until the last minute. And I think, believe it or not, I think there are one or two people who are really still torn.”

Demonstrators on both sides of the issue were relatively scarce in the Capitol on Wednesday. A small group of Orthodox Jews gathered outside the Senate chamber, one of them holding a sign that read “Gay Union/A Rebellion Against the Almighty.”

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Monsey, N.Y., said he traveled to Albany to remind the Senate “that the world belongs to the Almighty, and they have to reckon with his rules and his law.”

As John L. Sampson, the Senate Democratic leader, walked into his office on Wednesday morning, he flashed a thumbs-up to same-sex marriage supporters standing a few feet from the protesters. But Mr. Sampson acknowledged he did not know how the vote would turn out.

“I’ve got my work cut out for me,” he said.

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Read the full story here.

UPDATED: The bill failed in the Senate 24-38.

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One Comment
  1. Young Republican permalink
    December 3, 2009 5:15 pm

    Seven out of nine senators representing (parts of) Brooklyn voted for this bill. How embarrassing.

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