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Gay marriage bill again a close call in New York

Democrats in legislature make strong push for votes

- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. — The effort to legalize gay marriage in New York is getting an all-out lobbying effort from Democrats and celebrities, but there's still no sign of wavering among a critical bloc of Senate Republicans who led the defeat of the measure and blunted national momentum two years ago.

Advocates for gay marriage in New York, trying to revive the national campaign, may be just two votes away from winning in Albany in the closing five days of the legislative session.

Each side is funded by more than $1 million from national and state advocates that is being used in media blitzes and in promised campaign cash for lawmakers who side with them. The effort, organized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, as a top policy objective, drew three Democratic senators and one Republican, James Alesi, to the cause Monday. Half a dozen senators remain uncommitted publicly and others still could cast surprise votes on the Senate floor, as several did in 2009.

"Many of us thought that Senator Alesi would be in favor it, so the only difference now is that he's public with it," said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, a Republican opposed to the gay marriage bill. "So there's not really a net gain there."

The sole Democratic senator opposed to the bill, the Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, continues to drum up opposition, saying it's his calling.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan blogged Tuesday that approving gay marriage is akin to a communist country redefining other basic human rights.

"In those countries, government presumes to 'redefine' rights, relationships, values and natural law," Archbishop Dolan said. He said "courageous" senators are facing a "stampede" of lobbying to change their votes. "But, please, not here! Our country's founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government."

Legalizing gay marriage in New York is a critical win for the national effort. Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

But the effort has flagged since the 2009 defeat in New York, which surprised some advocates. Opponents are bolstered by defeats of similar bills in Maryland and Rhode Island this year, and recent polls have shown New Yorkers slightly less supportive of gay marriage as the issue gained more attention this year.

Whether the Democrats' stepped-up campaign this week in New York reflects growing momentum or a desperate effort to provide themselves some political cover will be played out by Monday, the last scheduled day of the legislative session. Republicans plan to conclude as early as Friday.

Mr. Cuomo said his bill is "roughly" the same as the one defeated in 2009 in a Senate then led by Democrats. Republicans won a 32-30 majority in 2010.

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