Gay marriage is plotting its comeback
in New York but whether senators will bite remains to be seen.
Last week, New York Governor David
Paterson told gay monthly The Advocate that he would add the
gay marriage bill to the agenda of a special session expected to take
place in late September.
“I am anticipating a special session
and I am anticipating this is one of the issues that we will
address,” Paterson said.
Paterson discussed his plan with the
state's most prominent gay marriage advocates Thursday, including the
Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Gill
The impromptu meeting was clearly an
attempt to avoid a repeat of the uproar that followed in June when
Paterson was playing his gay marriage cards closer to his chest.
During a special session, Paterson sets
the agenda; however, he cannot force lawmakers to take action.
Paterson called such a session in June
after Republican senators successfully led a leadership coup which
left the chamber in disarray, stranding the gay marriage bill waiting
for Senate approval to become law. Democrats have since regained
control by a slim margin after two senators returned to the fold.
In announcing the special session,
Paterson, a gay marriage supporter, did not mention if gay marriage
would be on the agenda, infuriating gay rights groups.
“Not to include marriage for same-sex
couples … is an insult to millions of gay and lesbian people and
their families,” Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire
State Pride Agenda, said in a statement.
Hours after making his announcement,
the governor reversed course, telling the New York Times: “It
has always been my intention to see same-sex marriage come to the
floor. I don't want there to be any confusion.”
“I don't want to do anything to
jeopardize it,” he added. “But I think, because of the activity
that went on today, I am forced to reveal my true intentions, even
though the advocates knew them already.”
Despite the extra innings – and the
governor's endorsement – senators ignored the gay marriage bill.
Now, Paterson blames the Republican
Senate coup for putting gay marriage on the back burner in New York.
“I felt that the whole fight over the
coup denied the people of New York resolution on a number of issues
that were very controversial and had been discussed and advocated
for,” Paterson said Thursday. “I think that we owe the public a
proper disposition on those pieces of legislation, and one of those
was marriage equality.”
As the previous special session
highlights, most senators remain divided on whether to legalize gay
marriage in New York.
Democrats hold a slim two vote majority
in the 62-member Senate. But only a few Democrats, about 20, have
publicly endorsed the bill. And five Democratic senators say they
are against the measure.
For the bill to win passage, backers
need the help of at least four Republicans. But no Republican has
publicly endorsed the bill. And the National Organization for
Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay
marriage, has threatened Republicans who cross the aisle to vote in
favor of the bill.
In June, NOM announced the creation of
a Political Action Committee in New York to raise funds to back
primary challengers of GOP Senators who vote in favor of gay
“Gay marriage is not high on the list
of any voter's priorities, but again and again we've seen politicians
respond to political money thrown around by [gay philanthropist] Tim
Gill and his friends to ignore the wishes of their own constituents,”
Brian Brown, executive director of NOM, said in a press release.
Still, openly gay senator Tom Duane, a
Democrat from New York City, says the bill will pass if lawmakers are
allowed to vote their conscience.
“I remain optimistic that it'll pass
this year and it'll pass with bipartisan support,” Duane told gay
weekly The Washington Blade.