Will Assembly Marriage Converts Take Senators With Them?

ALBANY—Tuesday's debate over same-sex marriage legislation in the State Assembly was supposed, according to the measure's advocates, to demonstrate to some fence-sitting state senators that there is safety in numbers for supporters of the measure. But is that true?

There were five Assembly members who changed their votes from 2007, when an almost-identical measure passed the chamber: Repblicans Janet Duprey and Fred Thiele, Independence Party member Tim Gordon, and Democrats Bob Reilly and Sandra Galef [corrected]. Duprey, who told me she came to her decision after much deliberation, joined her North Country colleague, Republican assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. Both of their districts overlap with that of State Senator Betty Little.

I asked Little, who is also a Republican, if their evolution would affect her thinking.

"It doesn't affect my decision or my opinion," she said outside the Senate chamber. "I am certainly for equality; I have a lot of friends and family members and I would love to see them have equality, but I believe we need to be respectful of the terminology and the historical definition of marriage. And that's where I stand."

"I think everyone's entitled to their own opinions, and I'm respectful of their opinions, and hope they're respectful of mine," she added.

Reilly and Gordon's district both overlap with Republican senator Roy McDonald, who I reached by phone a few minutes ago as he was driving through one of the more rural corners of his district. He says people usually ask him to focus on property taxes and improving the economy; they don't mention same-sex marriage.

"I don't think it plays into my thinking," McDonald said. "I like Reilly and Gordon. I like Teresa Sayward a great deal. I like Janet Duprey a great deal. All of them are my friends. I'm riding around my district right now, and there's a lot of things on our plate. This is one of many very important issues that I deal with, and I've always said it was a serious issue.

"I'd like to see the bill if they give it to me, and my world of people, I don't differentiate. I've learned, as I get older, to like people. People are people," he continued. "When it comes up in the Senate I'm going to take a serious look at it."

McDonald voted against the measure in 2007 as an assemblyman. But his statements are far from a no, or a yes. Earlier today, State Senator Tom Duane claimed that a Republican state senator was about to come out in support of same-sex marriage. He, of course, declined to say who it would be.