ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's most influential advocates for gay rights say the chances are better than ever to legalize same-sex marriage, even in a Republican-controlled Senate.
The Empire State Pride Agenda said its count after the November elections showed a net gain of at least two votes for same-sex marriage. The group also said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos has promised to bring the issue to the floor again.
A year ago, the measure passed in the Assembly, but failed in the Senate by eight votes. In November, two senators who opposed gay marriage — Democrat William Stachowski of Erie County and Frank Padavan of Queens — lost re-election bids in part because of Empire Pride's efforts.
The organization insists, too, that several new legislators in the biggest freshman class in decades will likely vote for the measure, while those who opposed it in 2009 will see a wiser political course in 2011.
Democratic Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo also made gay marriage a significant element in his campaign.
"We are sitting here today in a stronger position after the election than we were before," said Ross Levi, executive director of Empire Pride.
Part of the group's strategy includes arguing that gay marriages held in New York would add nearly $200 million to the economy and framing the question as a civil right. It also argues that legal marriage provides more than 1,000 rights to married couples, from who can visit a dying patient in a hospital to transferring property in wills.
"I believe there is a clear and credible path to victory on marriage equality," Levi said. "It's hard work. It's going to be a difficult session for anybody ... but we know how to do it."
He noted that some of the biggest wins for the gay and transgender community in the area of hate crimes and civil rights were won when Republicans controlled the Senate. Republicans are poised to take the majority in January after two years of Democratic rule, pending a final appeal in one race.
"Senator Skelos said that, subject to a discussion with his conference, he would put the bill out for a vote," said Skelos spokesman Mark Hansen. He noted, however, that the "top, immediate priorities" are the balancing the budget, cutting spending and creating jobs.
A Siena College poll this month found 56 percent of New York voters would support a same-sex marriage bill, with 43 percent opposed. In 2009, most polls showed slightly over 50 percent of voters supported gay marriage.
"I think in view of new members that have joined our conference and theirs, there is a likelihood that it has a better shot at passing," said Democratic Sen. Malave Dilan of Brooklyn, who voted for the measure in 2009. "Whatever the case is, it is should come to an up-or-down vote."
Empire Pride also said Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino's opposition to gay marriage has generated more political support for its cause.
Levi said Paladino's crash as a candidate was hastened by that opposition and his criticism of the behavior of gays at parades. Loud public opposition to Paladino's views created a warning for other politicians.
"It just doesn't work in New York," Levi said.