ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, closely allied with the Senate Republican majority that once blocked gay marriage, said Tuesday he's now optimistic it will be legalized in New York.
"I know it's failed before, but I think this is a different day," Cuomo said. "I'll bring more urgency in the next few weeks."
The Democrat says he believes the Senate will produce the 32 votes needed for passage in the six weeks remaining in the legislative session. The GOP majority in the Senate has strongly supported Cuomo's fiscal platform, including cutting state spending, a 2-percent cap in the growth of property taxes and rejection of tax increases. Now Cuomo needs help to pass one of his highest priority policy goals.
Cuomo said talks with legislative leaders as well as the rising public poll numbers for gay marriage are among his reasons for optimism. He is also spearheading a new, concerted effort by advocates for same-sex marriage.
The Senate's Republican majority plans to discuss the in a closed-door conference, after which the measure could go to a floor vote, said GOP majority spokesman Scott Reif. Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said his members are free to vote their conscience, even though the Republicans usually vote in a bloc.
Both sides are girding for a showdown after the bill's surprising defeat in 2009.
More than 700 Protestant and Jewish clergy members endorsed same-sex marriage Tuesday through the Empire State Pride Agenda advocacy group, an attempt to blunt the opposition by Catholic leaders, orthodox Jewish leaders, and conservative Protestant ministers. A rally in support of legalization of same-sex marriage is planned for next week.
On the other side, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz, a minister, plans a May 15 rally in the Bronx for what he says is defense of traditional marriage between a man and woman.
"There is no basis in Scripture for the injustice of not allowing same-sex couples to marry," said the Rev. Tom Davis of the United Church of Christ.
"I'd rather not quote Scripture in this argument, but that's certainly not accurate," said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference. He said the Bible doesn't discuss same-sex marriage which he said became an issue much more recently. The Bible does, however, delve into homosexuality, he said.
"While you can make a religious argument against changing the definition of marriage, the secular argument is stronger," Poust said. He said the state's interest in marriage is children from a sexual relationship. "It's the only life-giving relationship there is and that's why it's a special relationship. It doesn't mean gay people can't be in love, but it's a different relationship."
Diaz, a Democrat, said he will remain a voice opposed to the measure in the Senate. In 2009, the bill that had passed in the Democrat-led Assembly failed by eight votes in the Senate which Democrats then held by a 32-30 majority. Republicans have since regained the majority, and two of the Republican senators who opposed the measure are no longer office, with some others hinting they may change their vote. In 2009, Democrats failed to muster even all 32 of their members to approve the bill, losing one of their top policy priorities.
"Whoever comes to this rally will be there because they support the growing movement in New York to protect marriage and to oppose proposals to redefine the definition of marriage to include homosexual marriage," Diaz said.