For the first time New York Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith has admitted he does not have the votes to pass gay marriage in the Senate this year.

The leader's comments came at a Manhattan Human Rights Campaign fund-raiser on Saturday, the New York Times is reporting. The HRC is the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights advocate.

“I know one of your top priorities is the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples – something that I strongly support, something that I believe in and something that we will make happen together,” he said.

“Hold up,” he added, calming a roar of applause from the crowd.

“Although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage. And the question is not if; the question is when. So our work still needs to happen for it to happen this year. But I'm going to need your help, and I'm going to need your prayers.”

After the speech, Smith told a reporter: “The fact of the matter is we don't have the votes right now. So I'm working hard to get the votes.”

Smith's ascension to Senate leader came after a bruising fight over gay marriage.

Three senators – freshman Senator Pedro Espada Jr., Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, and Senator Carl Krugen of Brooklyn – were threatening to leave the Democratic Party if Senator Smith, who has promised to bring a gay marriage bill to a vote, would be made leader of the chamber.

After Governor David Paterson (D) announced a compromise had been reached, gay rights groups feared the gay marriage bill had been traded away in an effort to secure the political support of the so-called “gang of three.”

In the end, Smith wrestled into control and has since promised that the gay marriage bill was not compromised. His latest comments suggest that not all 32 Democrats are on board with gay marriage in the Senate where the Party captured a two seat majority (32-30) on November 4.

“We're still counting votes and lobbying,” Democratic Senator Thomas K. Duane, who attended Saturday's fund-raiser, said. “I'd say the situation is very fluid.”