Spitzer Starts a Polite Debate

paybarah spitzerv Spitzer Starts a Polite DebateSpitzer has never been shy about pushing his agenda. Except maybe when it comes to his boldest initiative: legalizing same-sex marriage.

“This is not something he’s primarily focused on, and he’s made that clear,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a supporter of same-sex marriage who represents the West Village.

Mr. Spitzer announced the initiative last week, via press release, while he was speaking to a group in Washington. At a business breakfast in Manhattan shortly afterwards, he conceded that it’s not likely to become law this year.

When more than 1,000 marriage advocates lobbied lawmakers in Albany on May 1, the Governor was in California, fund-raising.

Leading gay-rights advocates vouched for the genuineness of Mr. Spitzer’s commitment to the issue. Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, pointed to the fact that Mr. Spitzer has become the first Governor in the country to introduce “marriage equality” legislation, and that he did so within 150 days of taking office.

But Mr. Van Capelle, who helped organize public lobbying efforts for the bill in Albany this week, also concedes that the fight is still largely symbolic and won’t lead to change in the state’s law in time, say, for him to marry his boyfriend this November.

And that may be understating things. Before supporters can even think about the monumental task of steering a gay-marriage bill through the Republican-led State Senate, the bill will have to pass in the Democratic-led Assembly. And so far, there’s no sign that that’s going to happen.

According to Mr. Van Capelle’s count, about 60 of the 108 Democratic members in the 150-member Assembly support the bill.

And according to Ms. Glick, supporters of the bill are going to have a tough time finding the rest of the votes for a majority—with or without the Governor’s help. “Nobody wants to be the 76th or 77th vote,” she said. “In past administrations, on bills, you don’t expect the executive to come in and get you the 61st and the 62nd votes. That’s not how it works. You have to get, certainly, within shooting distance before you say, ‘Can you help us out with something?’”

Still, none of that has deterred Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan, who is the bill’s prime sponsor. He still thinks that Mr. Spitzer is in a position to help. As long as he asks nicely.

“I would say that he is much more effective when he asks people to do things than when he tries to tell them to do things,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “And when he asks, he can be very effective.”