ALBANY—Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, just said he believes “we had the votes back in June, and I still believe we have the votes today” to pass the same-sex marriage bill.
Van Capelle has been pushing furiously for a vote this year, even though he is nearly alone in saying that there are enough votes in the State Senate to pass it. (Most Senate sources say the opposite.) Last night, he managed to get a public commitment from the Senate that it would consider the measure before the end of the year. No firm date was set.
“If ‘as soon as possible’ is a firm date, that’s it,” Van Capelle said in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom. “In terms of a firm date, you know, I don’t think it serves anybody’s purpose to get a firm date out there because it only galvanizes the opposition to have it out there.”
A vote on same-sex marriage was expected to take place next week, when David Paterson said he will call a special session. Senators are not currently scheduled to return to Albany until January.
“Look, I know that conventional wisdom is that one, legislators are loath to return to Albany, but they weren’t at work for a month and a half and there’s also a month and a half’s worth of work to catch up on,” Van Capelle said. “I think there’s a general skepticism all the time, and I appreciate the skepticism. Because, you know, in Albany it seems that everybody has a healthy dose of skepticism, which is why I’m happy to be leaving Albany in a short while. But what happened is a very historic thing. Advocates came up, and people thought we were just going to get ignored completely.”
But there are not many sign of enthusiasm. Senate leaders did not stand next to Van Capelle when a vote was committed–by David Paterson. Two Senate sources told me today that Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson is not pleased with the decision. (Publicly, his spokesman says “we will commit the full spectrum of our energies to making marriage equality a reality.”) Advocates are not happy with Malcolm Smith, who promised them in 2008 that a vote on the issue would be held. And Liz reported that there is tension between the Gill Fund and Empire State Pride Agenda.
Plus, based on their track record, the Senate Democratic leadership’s ability to deliver on their promise is uncertain.
“I don’t believe they would have reached that agreement with us if they didn’t have consensus within their membership about it,” Van Capelle said. “I believe the commitment they made. I believe it was sincere, that they want to address this issue before the end of this year, and I have every reason to take them at this year.”