N.Y. Gov. Cuomo makes major push for gay marriage
The proposed protections are aimed at saving religious groups from discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to recognize gay marriage based on their principles.
Those exceptions — carve-outs in the political lexicon — are intended to coax the state Senate's Republican majority, most who oppose gay marriage, to allow the bill to the Senate where Cuomo thinks it will pass by a bipartisan vote led by Democrats. He's made the issue one of his primary objectives in his first year in office.
"Will the conference allow a vote to be taken, that's the threshold," Cuomo said Wednesday evening. "I'm pro-marriage equality, I'm also pro-First Amendment, I'm pro-church-state separation and I'm pro-religious freedom. So I also have the same concern."
Even if Republicans agree to the religious exemptions, that's no guarantee the bill will pass. On Wednesday, Cuomo, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said they agree in principle on more protections for religious groups, but critical negotiations over wording were expected to continue into Thursday, dragging out further a process that started to accelerate in earnest last Monday.
"It's not just the people who are going to vote 'yes' or who may vote 'yes,'" Cuomo said. "The entire (Republican) conference is looking at this language and the whole conference wants to make sure that they feel confident that if it comes out, and if it passes, that it protects religion."
Persuading those Republicans to get the bill to the floor for a vote was a pressure point for some of the hundreds of demonstrators at the Capitol on Wednesday. Signs cropped up threatening Republicans that if they allow the bill to the floor they could face a costly primary even if they ultimately vote against gay marriage.
Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long has also urged Senate Republicans to keep the bill from the floor, where a block of Democrats and a few Republicans could pass it. Among Democrats in the Senate, 29 of 30 say they'll vote for gay marriage, meaning only three Republicans need to vote for it to pass in the 62-seat chamber. Two have already committed to voting for it. There are only a small handful of senators, maybe as few as two, who are undecided.
"If gay marriage passes, it is Republicans across the state who will pay the biggest price," Long said in a joint statement with Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Bronx minister who leads opposition to same-sex marriage.
Long has said he would withhold the often critical Conservative endorsement from Republicans who vote for gay marriage. That threat was countered somewhat this week by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's visit to persuade Republicans to approve the bill: the independent, millionaire mayor is a longtime and generous contributor to Senate Republicans.read more.