New York Closer Than Ever to Legalizing Gay Marriage

By
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

As lobbying efforts on a gay-marriage bill intensify in the final week of Albany's legislative session, it was revealed today that three Democratic state senators who had previously voted against marriage-equality legislation in 2009 — Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Shirley Huntley of Queens, and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn — are "prepared to endorse the bill in the next 48 hours, either in private or in public." While the bill can't pass based on those votes alone, the flips could make an enormous difference. Pro-gay-marriage Republican senators had required that nearly the entire Democratic caucus vote for the legislation, ensuring that it passes by a large margin and no one particular GOPer will be held responsible.

Those Republican votes have always been the key to the puzzle, and today the Post's Fred Dicker reports that seven or more Republican state senators have signaled to Governor Andrew Cuomo that they support marriage equality. That's a bigger number than the six or so bi-partisan names that have been reportedly in play in the past few months. "Far more of the [GOP] members are in play than anyone realizes, including some surprising names from conservative upstate areas," a "highly knowledgeable Senate insider" told Dicker. Those Republicans include "Kemp Hannon of Nassau County, Charles Fuschillo of Suffolk County, Betty Little of Glens Falls, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, Greg Ball of Putnam County, James Alesi of Rochester, and Roy McDonald of Rensselaer County" — all senators who voted against a marriage-equality bill last time it came before the body, back in 2009. "Influences contributing to the changes of heart are secret Republican polls showing majority support for gay marriage in key swing districts and the strong possibility that the GOP could lose control of the Senate next year to Democrats campaigning on the issue," Dicker writes.

But there are still obstacles in the way of a marriage-equality victory, and they start with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He's terrified that the state Conservative Party will pull their support (and ballot line) from any Republican who supports it. He has said in the past that he'll allow a vote on the issue so that members can vote their consciences, but recently he's been reportedly wavering on that pledge. At the Capitol earlier today, Skelos reiterated that his members would be free to "vote their conscience" if the bill comes up for a vote, which he declined to guarantee.

Independence Party Chair Frank McKay has pledged to lead his party in making up for any lost support from the Conservative Party, however, and some Republican lawmakers see marriage equality as an inevitability because of increasing popularity among voters. At the moment, Cuomo administration officials are putting the odds of a marriage-equality bill passing the Senate at "50–50," or "60–40 against." Still, according to the Journal, the governor's office is planning to push for a vote this week, the last of the summer's legislative session.

In Reversal, 3 Democratic Senators Will Back Gay Marriage [City Room/NYT]
GOP swings both ways on gay-marriage bill [NYP]

Related: Can Cuomo Get Everyone to the Altar? [NYM]

This post has been updated with new information.