by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Marriage equality in New York state is only one vote away, according to political observers.
The latest version of the state marriage equality bill passed the New York Assembly on June 15, by a vote of 80 to 63.
It is now pending in the state Senate, where 31 senators have committed to vote Yes. Thirty-two are needed for passage.
Earlier in the week, two Republican senators, Sen. James S. Alesi and Sen. Roy J. McDonald, announced that they would join 29 Democrats in supporting the bill.
Sen. Rubén Díaz, a Pentecostal minister, is the only Democrat to oppose marriage equality.
Four additional Republican senators say they are undecided on the issue, including Stephen Saland, Mark Grisanti, Andrew Lanza, and Greg Ball.
Grisanti, who changed his public position from a definite No vote to 'undecided,' is considered the likely swing vote on the bill. The Republican senator told reporters this week that he has been thinking about the bill 'every second of every day in the last couple of weeks.'
Ball has said he will vote No unless he gets very specific language in the bill creating exceptions for religious groups opposed to same-sex marriage.
Republicans currently control the New York Senate, as they have for most for the last century, by a 32 to 30 margin. Consequently, Republican leaders can prevent the measure from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.
According to the New York Daily News, Republican senators met for four hours about the bill on June 15, but did not reach consensus on bringing the bill to a vote.
'We've had a tremendous conference, a thoughtful conference discussing the issue of marriage equality,' Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement after the meeting broke. 'The discussions are going to continue. The issue has not been resolved and I'll respect the decision of the conference once it's made.'
On June 16, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who favors marriage equality, met behind closed doors with Senate Republicans for about an hour in Albany in an effort to persuade them to allow a Senate vote on the issue.
The marriage bill is also supported by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who proposed it.
Skelos, who met with both Bloomberg and Cuomo, said on June 16 that no decision has been made on whether a vote would be allowed, according to the Associated Press.
On the same day, Republican Sen. Martin Golden, who joined in the meeting with Bloomberg, told AP he expects the marriage bill will go to the Senate floor for a vote, and indicated the vote could take place next week.
The marriage bill in New York has met with strong opposition from many anti-Gay religious groups, including the New York Family Research Foundation, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and the New York State Catholic Conference.
The state Senate rejected a similar bill in December 2009 by a margin of 38 to 24.
An April 2011 Siena College survey found that 58% of New York voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 36% were opposed, and 6% didn't know or had no opinion.
While same-sex marriages cannot be performed in New York, same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions are recognized in the state under a directive signed by Gov. David Paterson in 2008.
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