New York is one vote away from a big change in its political landscape--becoming the largest state that legalizes same-sex marriage.
On Wednesday, the New York State Assembly dominated by the Democrats easily approved the Marriage Equality Act submitted by Governor Andrew Cuomo by a vote of 80 to 63.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans spent most of the day behind closed doors debating the issue. The decision was still not made whether to bring the bill up for a vote.
The bill stipulates that marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples be treated equally in all respects under the law. A similar measure was rejected in 2009, but the approval of the bill seems closer than ever this time with a strong momentum on the supporters' side. Some of senators who were against the bill in 2009 said they will approve it this time, mainly because of the increasing support for the bill shown on polls. While some Republican senators are pushing to prevent the measure from reaching the Senate floor, others say they want a vote to get the bill off the table before next year's elections, NY1 reported.
For the bill to pass, at least 32 yes votes are needed in the senate, out of a total of 62. So far, 31 senators (29 Democrats and 2 Republicans) are in favor of the bill.
Traditional View on Marriage now Minority
While the opponents of gay marriage are now the minority in the U.S., their voices have not lost its weight in impacting the policy makers. Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish leaders have mobilized campaigns and raised awareness, urging voters to contact undecided lawmakers. In New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been a major opponent of the same-sex marriage bill, and has asserted the definition of an authentic marriage between a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to procreate children.
Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people. The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like. This is not about denying rights. It is about upholding a truth about the human condition. Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits: It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children. Please don't vote to change that. If you do, you are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so. This is false, it is wrong, and it defies logic and common sense, he stated on his blog on Tuesday.
Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister and state senator from the Bronx, has been a leader of the opposition to same-sex marriage. A Bronx rally he organized against the bill in 2009 attracted 20,000 people.
Opponents of the legislation have been traveling the state, making their case, battling on Twitter and other forms of social media, and lobbying at the Capitol. They have struggled at times to gain traction in recent weeks, particularly in contrast to the high-wattage lobbying effort on behalf of gay-rights groups, according to the New York Times. They often seemed less organized and less visible than supporters of same-sex marriage, who formed an umbrella coalition this year from the lessons learned in 2009.
The bill provides protection for clergy and religious groups by excusing their institutions from any obligation to participate in gay marriages, as well as individuals, businesses and nonprofit groups opposed to gay marriage from being charged with discrimination for refusing to provide their property or services to be used in a same-sex wedding.
However, New York's Conservative Party has made it clear that any GOP senator who votes for the marriage bill will lose its critical support. Any Republican who votes for this will not be on the conservative line, said Conservative Party Executive Director Shaun Marie. They don't carry conservative values and there's no sense in telling people that they do. In May, the National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group against same-sex marriage in the U.S., promised to spend $1 million to mount primary election challenges against Republican lawmakers who supported same-sex marriage.
David Tyree, former New York Giants hero has spoken out against gay marraige on the same day the State Assembly passed the bill.
If the bill is passed, the country would slide towards anarchy, Tyree warned. Marriage, the backbone of society, should not be redefined just because a minority has a push or an agenda, according to Tyree. Marriage, something that was not founded in our country, is holy and sacred and I think there's nothing more honorable than fighting for it.
Does same-sex marriage mean freedom or anarchy? New York lies at the center of the moral debate and national attention.
Moving toward the Final Answer
Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to meet with the lawmakers today inside his office at the state capitol, looking to secure the final vote to legalize gay marriage in New York. He met with three Republicans in his Capitol office Thursday, and is going to meet with more. Today, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos predicted his house would bring the bill to a floor vote, according to the Washington Post.
Since Cuomo was elected last year, his top priority in the same-sex marriage gave momentum to the movement toward legislation. Cuomo is reportedly spending a lot of time on the phone and meeting with lawmakers on the fence and offering political protection to legislators.
Thursday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Albany to lobby undecided senators; Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, John Flanagan of Long Island, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island and Greg Ball of the Hudson Valley.
Bloomberg said in a statement, Every generation has expanded upon the freedoms won by their parents and grandparents. And the next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples.
Republicans will resume their private caucus Friday and could decide to send the bill to the floor for a vote, or not introduce it at all, the Washington Post said. A vote by the entire Senate could happen as early as Friday. The legislative session is set to end on Monday.
The passage of the bill will determine whether New York will join the five states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire -- and the District of Columbia in granting same-sex marriage. If so, New York would be the largest state to allow same-sex marriage. While same-sex marriage laws have been defeated in 31 other states, the growth of nationwide acceptance of the idea is undeniable, shown in polls. A wave of same-sex marriages in New York would make it difficult for defenders of traditional marriage to overcome the growing trend of the public opinion that can permeate into the courts.