Thursday, June 16, 2011

New York Assembly Passes Bill to Legalize Gay Marriage 80-63; Legislation Now Heads to Senate by Kenneth Lovett - NY Daily News

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Same-sex marriage moved one step closer to being legalized in New York with  Assembly's vote.. Justin Sullivan/Getty

The Assembly Wednesday passed a bill to legalize gay marriage while Senate Republicans battled over whether to let the measure come to a floor vote.
The measure passed 80 to 63, the lowest margin in the four times it has been approved by the Assembly since 2007.
"It feels different this time because I'm very hopeful it will pass the Senate and become law this year," said Assembly bill sponsor Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan), one of a handful of gay state lawmakers.
Gov. Cuomo, who has made gay marriage a priority, crowed, "We are on the verge of a pinnacle moment for this state."
The fate of the bill is still up in the air in the GOP-controlled Senate, where 31 senators are on record as supporting it - one shy of the 32 needed for passage.
Senate Republicans discussed the issue behind closed doors for four hours Wednesday. Saying they were unable to decide how to proceed, they are scheduled to continue the talks today.
Just two of the 32-member GOP conference publicly support legalizing gay marriage. Four others are on the fence.
Sources said those who oppose the bill were split over what the Senate should do. Some senators argued against bringing the measure to the floor.
Others are said to have pushed for a floor vote to get the issue off the table in time for next year's elections as the GOP tries to maintain its slim majority.
Senator after senator were said to have spoken "passionately" about his feelings on the gay marriage issue at the four-hour conference.
Some expressed religious objections to the gay lifestyle. Others fear political backlash from conservatives that could cost the GOP the majority next year. Still others had legal concerns about the way the bill submitted by Cuomo was written.
Cuomo said his bill offers exemptions from anti-discrimination laws for certain religious groups and affiliated groups, like the Knights of Columbus.
Several Senate Republicans who are lawyers, including Stephen Saland, one of the four undecideds, have argued that under Cuomo's bill, those groups still could be sued under other parts of state law, sources said.
Senate Republicans are considering reworking the bill or asking Cuomo to amend his legislation, sources said.
"If there are any imperfections in the bill, it behooves us to address them and quickly clean them up," one senator said.
Two of the four undecided Republicans - Andrew Lanza of Staten Island and Greg Ball of Putnam - want stronger religious exemptions.
The legislative session ends next week.