Does Gay Marriage Still Have a Shot?

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Photo: istockphoto.com

Assuming that, at some point, the locks are removed from the gates of the Senate chamber and the new Republican-Espada-Monserrate-and-maybe-additional-Democrats regime takes over, what will become of the gay-marriage bill that's been such a focus of New York politics for the past two months?

Here's what we know: Democrat Pedro Espada, the new president pro tempore, is a co-sponsor (along with nineteen other Democrats) of the gay-marriage bill. Earlier today, he told the Daily News that he would be "pushing very very hard for issues like same-sex marriage to not be pre-determined in a smoke-filled room, but to let it air out in full debate on the Senate floor as soon as possible." Dean Skelos, the new majority leader, is against gay marriage, but had previously instructed his caucus to vote how they pleased on the issue. Both men discussed the issue with the Post's Fred Dicker on Albany's TALK 1300 this morning. Espada expressed hope that the bill would come to a vote, while Skelos, according to Newsday, "didn't disagree." "We should vote up or down on bills, that's part of the reforms we've brought," Skelos said.

That would seem to indicate that perhaps the bill will be allowed to come up for a vote after all. But though Skelos might relish a high-profile opportunity to demonstrate that he'll be running things more openly and small-"d" democratic than did Malcolm Smith — who vowed to only allow a vote on gay marriage if the votes were lined up — would he do so with the knowledge that gay marriage would actually pass? A win-win for Skelos would be if he knows gay marriage would fail but allows a vote on it anyway — sort of the anti-Malcolm position. For what it's worth, Skelos's spokesman, Scott Reif, tells us that no decision has been yet been made on whether to bring the bill to the floor.

Whether the bill has enough support to pass is unclear. NY1's vote tally has been fairly stagnant, with the last count showing 20 senators in favor, 28 against, and 14 who are undecided or won't say. But Alan Van Capelle, the Empire State Pride Agenda's executive director, released a statement today claiming that the bill had been "gaining momentum" and urging the State Senate to hold a vote "as soon as possible." Perhaps he thinks the votes are there, or maybe he would just rather take a chance and at the very least know exactly where he stands for the fight going forward. Clearly, there are a lot of unknowns involved here. But it's safe to say that, while the bill isn't dead yet, its prospects are likely worse than before.