Paterson: Same-Sex Marriage on the Agenda for the Special Session

Governor David Paterson has promised to put same-sex marriage on the agenda when he calls lawmakers back to Albany for a special session to deal with business left undone since the coup back in June.

“Marriage equality will be on the calendar,” Paterson told an audience at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s annual fund-raiser in Manhattan last night. “Marriage equality is coming to New York State.”

The head of ESPA, Alan van Capelle, went further, calling out legislative leaders by name and demanding they finally have a vote on the issue.

“Senator John Sampson, you’re the leader of the State Senate,” bellowed Capelle to an overflowing crowd at the Sheraton ballroom. “Senator Tom Duane, you have told us on multiple occasions you have the votes to pass this bill. Give us the dignity, the rights, and the respect we deserve. Bring this bill to the floor for a debate and a vote.”

Duane is an openly gay state senator who is the leading advocate for same-sex marriage in that chamber. Before the speech, he told reporters he was confident it would pass this year. Some advocates fear that the measure will have a harder time passing next year, since state lawmakers are up for reelection and fearful of taking on controversial legislation.

But Capelle’s speech marks a new level in the demands made of Democratic allies of the cause. In previous years, Capelle has issued more general warnings about turning against Democrats who don’t support them, but hasn’t singled out legislators by name during such a speech.

After the speech, Paterson told reporters that although he doesn’t have the authority to mandate a vote on the issue, “we would expect them to vote on the bill” since it will be on the official legislative agenda.

When asked if the bill currently has enough votes to pass the closely divided senate, Paterson said, “I don’t see the future. I believe it would pass.”

After being pressed about whether the legislation has enough votes to pass, Paterson replied, “You’re asking me a question that I really don’t even understand why you’re asking. That’s not my role. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m putting the bill on the calendar.”

Paterson said the Senator Sampson expressed optimism that the bill would pass.

I asked Paterson if the legislation would be harder to pass next year, when he and other state lawmakers are up for election.

“I don’t necessarily think that that’s the case,” he said.

During the speech, Capelle said the group won’t be satisfied by the inaction of “summer soldiers” who don’t actively work to advance same-sex marriage.

Afterward, I asked Capelle to name some of those “summer soldiers.” He declined. I asked if he considered Michael Bloomberg a member of that category.

“Look, I’m talking about Albany. You’re talking about New York City,” Capelle said.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” said State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who joined us, and, it should be noted, is a supporter of Bloomberg’s rival, Bill Thompson.

“This is an Albany fight,” said Capelle, “the last time I checked New York City doesn’t get to determine whether or not the people of New York get marriage equality.”

Later, Capelle said, “I’m talking about people elected to the State Senate.”

Paterson: Same-Sex Marriage on the Agenda for the Special Session