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Gay Marriage New York Bill Will Go To Senate For A Vote (LIVE BLOG)

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GAY MARRIAGE NEW YORK
Supporters watch the Senate debate from the Stonewall Inn bar in Manhattan (Photo: Matt Sledge) |

ALBANY, N.Y. - Republicans in the New York Senate agreed Friday to allow a full vote on legalizing gay marriage, setting the stage for a possible breakthrough victory for the gay-rights movement in the state where it got its start.

New York could become the sixth state where gay couples can wed, and the biggest by far. A vote could come as soon as tonight.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos released a statement announcing the bill would go to the Senate for an up or down vote. "As I have said many times, this is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate."

The heavily Democratic Assembly has already approved one version of the measure and is expected to easily pass the new version, which contains more protections for religious groups that oppose gay marriage and feared discrimination lawsuits.

Even State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, perhaps New York's most powerful opponent to same-sex marriage, told the Weekly Standard that he was fairly certain the measure would pass.

"I know they've got the 32nd vote, and I think they've muscled two more people" for the vote. "Hopefuly all of that blows up [but] I don't see that happening."

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign it. Gay weddings could begin 30 days after that.

Gay marriage activists were jubilant and applauded Skelos, who is opposed to gay marriage, for keeping his promise to let the conference decide whether to send the bill to the floor.

Though New York is a relative latecomer in allowing gay marriage, it is considered an important prize for advocates, given the state's size and New York City's international stature and its role as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, which is said to have started with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969.

The effects of the law could be felt well beyond New York: Unlike Massachusetts, which pioneered gay marriage in 2004, New York has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license, meaning the state could become a magnet for gay couples across the country who want to have a wedding in Central Park, the Hamptons, the romantic Hudson Valley or that honeymoon hot spot of yore, Niagara Falls.

Gay-rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island.

The sticking point over the past few days: Republican demands for stronger legal protections for religious groups that fear they will be hit with discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to allow their facilities to be used for gay weddings.
Now, all 32 Republicans have approved stronger religious protections.

Several senators said they didn't know from discussion inside a closed conference Friday afternoon whether the bill would pass. Senators had agreed not to comment on discussions in the caucus and to allow Skelos to speak for them.

New York, the nation's third most populous state, would join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in allowing same-sex couples to wed.

For five months in 2008, gay marriage was legal in California, the biggest state in population, and 18,000 same-sex couples rushed to tie the knot there before voters overturned the state Supreme Court ruling that allowed the practice. The constitutionality of California's ban is now before a federal appeals court.

While court challenges in New York are all but certain, the state -- unlike California -- makes it difficult for the voters to repeal laws at the ballot box. Changing the law would require a constitutional convention, a long, drawn-out process.

Movement on the bill comes after more than a week of stop-and-start negotiations, rumors, closed-door meetings and frustration on the part of advocates.

Online discussions took on a nasty turn with insults and vulgarities peppering the screens of opponents and supporters alike and security was beefed up in the capitol to give senators easier passage to and from their conference room.

Despite New York City's liberal Democratic politics and large and vocal gay community, previous efforts to legalize same-sex marriage failed over the past several years, in part because the rest of the state is more conservative than the city.

If the bill succeeds this time, it would reflect the powerful support of New York's new governor, who lobbied hard for the measure, and perhaps a change in public attitudes. Opinion polls for the first time are showing majority support for same-sex marriage, and Congress recently repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gays from serving openly in the military.

In the weeks leading up to the action in New York, some Republicans who opposed the bill in 2009 came forward to say they were supporting it for reasons of conscience and a duty to ensure civil rights.

Pressure to vote for gay marriage also has come from celebrities, athletes and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Republican-turned-independent who has long used his own fortune to help bankroll GOP campaigns and who personally lobbied some undecided lawmakers. Lady Gaga has been urging her 11 million Twitter followers to call New York senators in support of the bill.

Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox rabbis and other conservative religious leaders are fighting the measure, and their GOP allies have pressed hard for legal protections for religious organizations that object to gay marriage.

Each side of the debate was funded by more than $1 million from national and state advocates who waged media blitzes and promised campaign cash for lawmakers who sided with them.

But GOP senators said it was Cuomo's passionate appeals in the governor's mansion on Monday night and in closed-door, individual meetings that were perhaps most persuasive.

The bill would make New York only the second state, after Vermont, to legalize marriage through a legislative act and without being forced to do so by a court.

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New York will be the sixth, and largest, state in the union to adopt gay marriage. The bill will take effect 30 days after governor Andrew Cuomo signs it into law.

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Grisanti: : "I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage...I vote in the affirmative, Mr. President."

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Religious exemptions have been passed, all but securing the vote.

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Republican Senator Saland throws his support to gay marriage. "I have to define doing the right as treating all persons with equality." "I certainly am in peace with my vote." He's the 32nd vote.

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Republican State Senator Stephen Saland is describing the amendments to the bill that protect religious exemptions. Up until now Sen. Salad has been undecided on whether or not to vote for the bill.

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The Senate is back in session and is ready to vote on the bill. Senator Thomas Duane says this bill will say "we are family."

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HuffPost reporter Matt Sledge is in the West Village in Manhattan and says Christopher street is flooded with supporters of the marriage bill.

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A bill that allows livery cabs to pick up passengers off the street. Senate taking a fifteen minute break, during which you can listen to the ridiculous music playing on the NYS Senate website.

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Senates passes Omnibus bill 57 to 5, moving on to supplemental calendar 60B. "Two bills on this agenda. Neither is #SSM," says NY Senate Twitter. Senators now discussing the proposed Livery cab bill, which would bring more cabs to the outer boroughs in New York.

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The Assembly has approved the new religious language in the same sex marriage bill. Nick Confessore says pro-marriage lawmakers are cheering. Senate still debating the Omnibus bill.

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Senate has approved SUNY 2020 act 51-11. Taking up Omnibus bill next, which will include property tax cap, mandate relief and rent regulation.

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State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, perhaps New York's most powerful opponent to same-sex marriage, told the Weekly Standard that he was fairly certain the measure would pass.

"I know they've got the 32nd vote, and I think they've muscled two more people" for the vote. "Hopefuly all of that blows up [but] I don't see that happening."

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When the vote happens, you can watch it here live http://1.usa.gov/jAhEz9

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From Skelos' statement:

After many hours of deliberation and discussion over the past several weeks among the members, it has been decided that same sex marriage legislation will be brought to the full Senate for an up or down vote.

The entire Senate Republican Conference was insistent that amendments be made to the Governor’s original bill in order to protect the rights of religious institutions and not-for-profits with religious affiliations. I appreciate the Governor’s cooperation in working with us to address these important issues and concerns.

As I have said many times, this is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate.

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Reports are coming in that the marriage bill WILL come to a vote on the floor. The New York Times' Danny Hakim, quoting Senator Alesi, also confirms the vote will be tonight.

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The Assembly's amendment to the marriage bill (with new religious exemptions) is now online.

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Cuomo announced that the SUNY 2020 bill and Omnibus bill have been delivered to Legislature. But no marriage bill yet.

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The New York Times is reporting that the Cuomo camp and legislative leaders have settled on religious exemption language. No word yet whether bill will come to a vote on the floor, however.

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According to the New York State Senate Democratic Conference, drafts of legislation are being printed and legislators will be conferencing on them at 4PM today.

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A picture of the empty chamber, from David King, State Government Editor for the Gotham Gazette.

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News is slow to come in, and those waiting at the Capitol for tidbits are clinging to any movement as a possible lead in the march toward a decision on gay marriage vote. Capitol Tonight's Twitter feed illustrates this well. "RT @CapitolTonight: Something happening???? No, DeFran just popped out for candy"

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According to NY1 reporter Erin Billups, Cuomo camp says all bills are currently being printed.

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Protests have become so loud and passionate, some Senators are concerned for their safety about walking from vote meetings to the floor.

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Around the Web

Same-sex marriage goes down to legislative wire in New York | Reuters

New York Assembly passes bill to legalize gay marriage 80-63 ...

N.Y. Gay Marriage Vote Nears; Opponents Keep Up Pressure ...

NY State Senate to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

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