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Friday, June 24, 2011

Consensus Reached on Religious Exemptions in Gay Marriage Bill

ALBANY — The Cuomo administration and legislative leaders have reached agreement on language to protect religious institutions from obligations to recognize same-sex marriage, two people involved in the negotiations said on Friday afternoon, potentially paving the way for a vote on the marriage legislation.
Senate Republicans were still discussing the marriage bill in a closed-door meeting on Thursday afternoon; it remained unclear whether — or if — they would permit a vote on the broader legislation. The State Assembly, which approved an earlier version of the same-sex marriage bill last week, would need to approve the new language before the full bill could become law.
Gay rights advocates said they were hopeful that the same-sex marriage bill would win passage before lawmakers ended their annual session.
As of Friday morning, the number of senators who had voiced support for the marriage measure — 31 out of 62, one short of a majority — had not changed in over a week. And negotiations over protections for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage had yielded no final agreement between Republicans and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a supporter of the bill, raising the prospect that the Legislature could adjourn without addressing the politically freighted legislation.
Most Republican senators say they strongly oppose the measure on religious or moral grounds. Still others are worried that next year it could provoke a spate of primary challenges — or low turnout among conservatives — when Republicans will be battling to retain their one-vote Senate majority in newly redrawn legislative districts that could prove less hospitable to its long-serving incumbents.

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