ALBANY—The path is now truly clear for the State Senate to consider a bill legalizing same-sex marriage today.
The legislature is still in extraordinary session, so the measure had to be re-passed by the State Assembly to become law. That chamber has previously approved the bill twice, and affirmed it once again early Tuesday morning. David Paterson has said that the path to Senate action is clear, and that he will sign the bill if it clears that chamber. It’s far from certain it will.
But the Assembly re-passage is a signal of confidence by advocates that the Senate will actually vote on the measure this week. (I almost typed today, but God knows how late their session will extend into the evening.)
“Absolutely. It gives them both political coverage and it also shows them that members of this house who have consistently voted for this bill over the last three years continue to function in their seats, and they shouldn’t be afraid to vote for equality,” Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, the bill’s sponsor and one of a few openly gay members of the chamber, told me last night after its passage. “So I think it makes it easier and it shows that this can be done in a civilized and patient manner even if it is done late at night.”
A lobbying force that includes the Empire State Pride Agenda and Pat Lynch has been pushing for this issue relentlessly. I saw Lynch emerge from a meeting with State Senator Liz Krueger, a liberal Manhattan Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, Tuesday night looking confident, before heading to the Assembly chamber and chatting with top staffers there.
Alan Van Capelle, the Pride Agenda’s executive director, watched from the gallery as he ate a burger from a Styrofoam container. When the bill passed, he came downstairs to offer pecks on the cheek to O’Donnell and other supporters.
“I think it’s remarkable that a debate that took three-and-a-half hours just two years ago took less than a minute this time,” he told me. “It certainly feels like the momentum is on our side, and we’re working.”
But the opponents have geared up, too. About a dozen demonstrators–Hasidic Jews and conservative Christians, from what I can tell–have come to the Capitol on the expectation the Senate will vote. I asked Van Capelle if he had any assurances the bill would come up today.
“I know they’ll take it up before the end of the year,” he replied.