If it passes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that he would sign the bill into law. It would make New York the sixth state to recognize gay marriages. Changes to the bill since it was last considered in the legislature have closed the gap needed for passage.
Negotiators are working on final provisions of a bill to soothe some Senate Republican concerns over how the bill might affect religious institutions, including church-run adoption agencies, and hope a deal will be in place for a vote Monday when the State Senate returns to Albany to wrap up the 2011 session.Protesters are out in force on the Third Floor in the Capitol as they are doing their best to let the legislators know their views.
Fence-sitting Senate Republicans, including Buffalo Sen. Mark Grisanti, who met with Cuomo in private Friday, say there are still outstanding issues that are keeping them from becoming "yes" votes.
The final version expected to emerge Monday is not expected to be dramatically different than what already passed the Assembly earlier this week. Cuomo said religious groups have raised "legitimate" concerns over religious freedom issues.
The Catholic Church has said the way the bill is written would force them to recognize same-sex marriages for the purposes of church-run adoption agencies, and other religious groups want protections against being penalized by the state -- either losing certain state licenses for various social agencies or their tax-exempt status -- if they do not perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Proponents were cautious, though confidence that gay marriage will become legal has been growing in a week that has seen five senators change their positions on the issue, as well as the Assembly's passage of the bill and increasing acknowledgment privately by many Republican senators of the bill's passage. Approval is shy by one vote in the Senate, and any changes made in the coming days can be adopted by an amendment vote in the Assembly instead of a full debate all over again.
Conservative religious groups were pulling out all the stops and hope to pressure Senate Republicans in their districts this weekend.
A legislative adoption of gay marriage rights is preferable to a judicial imposition and if New York enacts a gay marriage law, expect other states to follow suit and model their statutory language on the New York wording.
The bill is A8354. The bill authorizes the granting of civil marriage, while leaving the religious institution of marriage to its own separate, and fully autonomous sphere. It also addresses benefits received by spouses in such gay marriages and puts them on the same footing as those received in heterosexual marriages.
It is interesting that New York, which had lagged on domestic relations law for so long (it was among the last to shift to a no-fault divorce), is now on the cusp of granting gay marriages.