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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bloomberg Visits, But No Breakthrough on Gay Marriage Vote

ALBANY — Senate Republicans emerged from a brief session with MayorMichael R. Bloomberg on Thursday morning and said they had still not decided whether to allow a vote on same-sex marriage.
Mr. Bloomberg, an independent who is the biggest single donor to the Senate Republican caucus, is a strong advocate of same-sex marriage, and he flew up to Albany in an effort to persuade the G.O.P. Senate majority to allow a vote on the contentious issue, which is supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and was approved by the State Assembly Wednesday night.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting, Mr. Bloomberg said he believed that the bill would ultimately pass with several votes to spare.
“I still believe if they do vote their hearts and principles, New York State will become the next state to adopt marriage equality,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Because based on my conversations with senators, I believe that if the bill comes to the floor, it will pass. And I’m very hopeful that will be any day now.”
The mayor did not say which additional Republican lawmakers he expected to switch their votes, but Mr. Bloomberg mentioned three Republican senators he had spoken with in recent weeks: Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, John J. Flanagan of East Northport, and Mark J. Grisanti of North Buffalo.
“In all my conversations with senators – Senator Lanza, Senator Flanagan, Senator Grisanti – and many others, I could see how personal this was for them and their families, how carefully they were listening to both their parents and children, and how earnestly they are struggling to find the right answer,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “This is not an easy issue.”
But at least some potential votes appeared to be slipping away on Thursday. Greg Ball, a Republican senator from the Hudson Valley who had been heavily lobbied by advocates and Republican donors who support gay marriage, issued a statement calling Mr. Cuomo’s bill “an affront to religious organizations” because it did not include broad enough protections for religious institutions.
The bill, Mr. Ball said, “would open up a new era of lawsuits against individuals and religious organizations.”
A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo had on Wednesday rejected Mr. Ball’s characterization, saying that the measure protects religious organizations and that the governor was not considering changes to the bill.
The Senate remains deadlocked over marriage, with 31 of the 62 senators saying they would support passage and the lieutenant governor of New York barred from voting on substantive matters. A handful of Republican senators say they are undecided; they will determine the fate of the issue, which wasdefeated in a Senate vote in 2009.
The Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, went immediately from the Republican conference to a brief meeting with Mr. Cuomo, a first-term Democrat who has said that passage of gay marriage is one of his top priorities for this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to end Monday. After emerging from his meeting with the governor, Mr. Skelos reiterated that no decision had been reached on how to handle the same-sex marriage bill and that Republicans would discuss that issue, as well as others, later in the day.
“We’re going into session, and throughout the day we will come back and discuss the issue,” Mr. Skelos told reporters before meeting with Mr. Cuomo.
Senator Thomas Libous, a Republican from Binghamton and the Senate deputy majority leader, said the caucus had been attentive to the mayor’s remarks, but still undecided.
“Mayor Bloomberg came in — very, very passionate on the issue of gay marriage — spoke with us, and we listened to him,” Mr. Libous said. “The mayor is a very influential leader, and he shared his thoughts and opinions on the issue.”
However, Mr. Libous said, “This is a very difficult decision for any individual senator, and the process continues.”
Senator Martin J. Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn and a steadfast opponent of same-sex marriage, predicted that the Senate would ultimately vote on the issue.
“I think gay marriage comes to the floor,” he said. “I think it’s definitely coming to the floor.”

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