The words “Malcolm Smith” were uttered only once, in passing, during the hour-long press conference in which David Paterson put forward, as promised, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
The issue has put the state senate majority leader on the spot, with everyone wondering what (if anything) he will do to get the measure through his chamber. There is a general recognition that there are not yet 32 votes to pass a bill there (it has passed the Assembly and is expected to pass again), and Smith has said that “it will pass as soon as the votes can be secured and he is committed to continuing that process now.”
He did not attend a press conference at Paterson’s Manhattan office.
“He’s in meetings and wasn’t able to attend,” Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Smith, said of his boss.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wasn’t at the event either, but, according to the governor, that’s because he’s celebrating Passover.
Speaking of Smith, Paterson said, “He wasn’t aware of the press conference until yesterday. He is a strong supporter of the legislation. He will make the final decision. I wanted to create the option.”
State Senator Tom Duane, the sponsor of same-sex-marriage legislation in the Senate, spoke afterward. He did not mention Smith in his remarks, during which he proclaimed he was proud to carry the bill and said, “We’re all going to be carrying it together.”
“I know, we know, it’s going to take hard work,” Duane said. “And we also know it’s going to take a bipartisan effort. And governor, I know that you can do it.”
(Notice Duane put the onus on Paterson.)
The governor, in turn, held to his line about choosing to introduce the program bill now, even if it is defeated in a floor vote.
“Civil rights don’t wait for the right time–I hope we’ve cleared that up once and for all,” Paterson said.
He opened his remarks by bringing up the Dred Scott decision, and likened the gay-rights struggle the civil-rights fight for African Americans, Jews and women. He preemptively brought up the prospect of the bill being defeated, a prospect he maintains he has no problem with.
“How is it devastating?” he said. “What is this, Iran?”
He echoed President Woodrow Wilson, who said “publication changes more public policy than legislation.”
It is unclear when the legislature will take up the program bill.