By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE -
ALBANY — The State Senate will vote on same-sex marriage, a leading Republican state senator said on Friday, setting the stage for a final decision on the most closely watched issue facing the Legislature as it wraps up its annual session. The exact timing was unclear, thought it was expected to occur much later in the evening.
The marriage measure, which was proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and approved by the state Assembly, has been publicly endorsed by 31 of the 62 senators — leaving the measure one vote shy of the votes needed for passage in the Senate. The announced supporters include 29 of the 30 Senate Democrats and 2 of the 32 Senate Republicans. Supporters and opponents alike said that anything could happen when the Senate takes its vote.
The Senate easily defeated a same-sex marriage measure in 2009, when the chamber was controlled by Democrats; improbably, it seemed to face better odds this year, when it is controlled by Republicans, because Mr. Cuomo has succeeded in persuading all but one Democrat to support the measure, and because a few Republicans have changed their votes. Mr. Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, has said that passage of same-sex marriage is one of his top priorities.
The decision by Senate Republican leaders to allow a vote followed a week of intense behind-the-scenes negotiation between Mr. Cuomo and Senate Republicans, much of it focused on whether or not the governor’s proposal went far enough in protecting religious institutions that do not approve of same-sex unions.
Opponents of same-sex marriage rallied in force on Monday, gathering outside the Senate chambers to sing and chant, as their leaders delivered petitions with 63,000 signatures of New Yorkers opposing the legalization of same-sex weddings. Supporters, in turn, staged a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, and representatives of both sides have been holding signs and talking with lawmakers in the halls of the Capitol throughout the week.
Should the bill pass the Legislature, New York would become the sixth and largest state in which gay and lesbian couples can legally wed, intensifying an evolving national debate over the role of gays and lesbians in American society and giving new momentum to a movement that had stalled in recent years.