ALBANY—A vote on same-sex marriage will be held “at a date not certain between now and the end of the year,” David Paterson just promised publicly.
“This is the first time the Senate leadership has indicated that it will support a vote on marriage equality,” Paterson said. He also committed to putting the bill on the calendar for a special session next week.
Conspicuously absent from the Red Room press conference where Paterson spoke were any Senate leaders. Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and Senate President Malcolm Smith had attended a meeting with David Paterson, to which they were led by an intense-looking Tom Duane, the openly gay senator who is the bill’s sponsor. Plans to hold a vote on the marriage bill today fell through, and the expectation from sources lobbying for the bill was that a commitment would be made to vote on the bill during a special session next week. Their closed-door meeting lasted almost two hours; reporters staking it out were called into the Red Room, giving Smith and Sampson a chance to slip away.
I asked Paterson why the Senate leadership itself didn’t make the commitment.
“I think that those three leaders would not like to get into a conversation about dates and times. They’ve made the commitment–they have not had a chance to meet with their membership just yet, and usually these type of commitments come after meeting with membership,” he said, less than three hours after telling reporters that “I can’t explain the dynamic of the Senate, because nobody can.”
“Because people are leaving Albany today, we thought it was important to notify the public, and I think that they have representation in the meeting and they will stand behind this commitment,” Paterson continued. He was joined at a podium by Senators Eric Adams, Jeff Klein, Eric Schneiderman and Duane.
“I want to applaud in the strongest possible way Governor Paterson’s leadership on this issue and on so many issues that confront our state,” Duane said. “But especially on this issue. It’s just really great.”
“I’m very happy with the outcome of our discussion, and as you know, if I’m not happy you know it,” he continued. “And I’m very happy with the result of the meeting.”
Alan Van Capelle, the executive of the Empire State Pride Agenda, who has been pushing hard for a vote on the bill even though the votes for its passage are far from secured, said the announcement was “significant.”
Leaving the announcement, Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran walked hurriedly with reporters in tow, and said “I can only confirm what the governor said.”
“There is a commitment to bring the bill to the floor for a vote before the end of the year, and we will commit the full spectrum of our energies to making marriage equality a reality in the state of New York,” Shafran said after checking with the leaders.
While again frustrated, advocates have accepted the situation and are looking forward to next week.
“It’s the only game in town, so we’ve got to play it,” one said.