Syracuse, N.Y. – Despite support from all statewide elected leaders, prospects for a same-sex marriage bill passing the state Legislature this year appear shaky at best.
Political observers say its fate will hinge on the votes of a handful of state senators — particularly Republicans who are willing to make up for defections from the Democratic side of the aisle.
“There are at least a handful of Democratic senators who have said publicly they would not be supporting the bill if it came to a vote,” said state Sen. David Valesky, a Democrat. “With a 32-30
(Democrat-Republican) split, those votes would have to come from the other side of the aisle.”
Gov. David Paterson announced plans Thursday (April 16) to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, making a political gamble that he can ride the momentum of other states that have recently allowed it.
Valesky opposes same-sex marriage and said he would vote against Paterson’s bill. He favors civil unions instead.
State Sen. Darrel Aubertine, another Central New York Democrat and a practicing Catholic, also opposes the legislation and said he would vote against it, as he did in the Assembly in 2007.
The bill, if passed, would offer same-sex couples the same legal status and treatment as heterosexual couples.
A total of 1,324 rights — including health care, pension and property rights — come with a New York marriage license, said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group.
The bill would not require clergy to perform same-sex ceremonies.
The governor’s proposal is the same bill the Democrat-controlled state Assembly passed in 2007 before it died in the state Senate, which was under Republican control at the time.
Now, Democrats control the state Senate, but opponents of the bill are vowing to make sure it fails, as well.
With several Senate Democrats opposing the matter, state leaders say they hope Republican senators “vote their conscience” and approve the measure despite pressure to oppose it from their party.
Leaders say changing people’s minds about same-sex marriage is possible. Sen. Charles Schumer, for example, has long supported civil unions, but in March decided to support same-sex marriage.
“This is a civil rights issue,” Paterson said. “We have a duty to ensure that equality exists for everyone.”
Forty-one percent of New York voters believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 33 percent think they should be allowed to form civil unions but not to marry, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted during the first week of April. Just less than 20 percent of voters said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex unions.
By Delen Goldberg
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.