State Senate ‘Close’ to Final Language on Religious Protections in Marriage-Equality Bill [Updated]

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Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Last night state senator Andrew Lanza from Staten Island, a reported fence-sitter on the issue of marriage equality, told reporters, "We're close on language that I believe satisfactorily addresses" religious protections for groups who do not believe in gay nuptials. According to the Daily News, if such language is agreed upon, multiple senators could switch their votes from "no" to "yes" on the issue. The Wall Street Journal also chimes in to report that "most members in the [Republican] conference expect to bring the bill to the floor in the next two days." There is staunch resistance in the caucus to allowing a vote, which is causing turmoil in a group that "prides itself on its unity." Greg Ball, one of the more hesitant undecideds who is pushing hard for aggressive religious protections, said not long ago: "There should definitely be a vote, up or down. We live in a democracy." Another Republican senator told Journal reporter Jacob Gershman: "I see it coming to the floor ... People who don't understand the process are thinking, 'Don't bring it up and it will go away for a year.'"

Cuomo has at least one card up his sleeve to use against those who would punt on the issue of marriage equality: He can force legislators back for an emergency conference to deal with the issue. The session has already been extended for three days into the summer, and according to Michael Barbaro at the Times, the added time has taken its toll. Legislators, lobbyists, and aides are running out of suits, shirts, socks, and even underwear during the long days of work, with no breaks for laundry or other personal tasks. When the session broke up around midnight last night without a vote on marriage equality, the News' Ken Lovett reported that gay activists actually hissed at senators.

The Republican caucus is meeting now, and session will begin later today. The similarly contentious property-tax-cap and rent-regulation omnibus bill, which many are calling "the big ugly," has yet to be printed, so it should be another long day. Advising his assembly on what to do about staying in Albany, Speaker Sheldon Silver reportedly said, "Check out of your hotel, but make a reservation for Thursday." Cuomo, who is still "cautiously optimistic" about a marriage vote, has listed on his public schedule that he plans to return home to Westchester today, perhaps for the night.

Update: Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos just told reporters that there would be a 'lengthy" GOP conference on the marriage equality bill today, during which they'd consider the religious exemption amendments. (For the past couple of days the bill was set aside in conference in favor of other issues). He also said that the caucus as a group will decide whether to put it to a vote in the middle of the night tonight, on Friday, or not at all.