NY Senate to vote on same-sex marriage by year's end

A rainbow flag is draped over attendants of A rainbow flag is draped over attendants of a gay pride parade in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009. Photo Credit: AP

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ALBANY - The State Senate will debate and vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage by year-end under an agreement brokered last night by Gov. David A. Paterson.

The commitment by the Senate's top three leaders came after Tuesday's special session saw no action on gay marriage. Citing weakened support for the bill, leaders had again refused to bring it to the floor.

Only 25 senators, all Democrats, now back legislation certifying unions between two men or two women; 32 votes are needed for passage. The Assembly adopted the bill in May.

"Marriage equality will be debated on the floor of the New York State Senate at a date not certain, between now and the end of the year," Paterson said. He will put the bill on agendas for special sessions he has called for next week, though that doesn't guarantee action.

Paterson made the announcement at a news conference where Senate Democratic leaders John Sampson of Brooklyn, Malcolm Smith of St. Albans and Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx were noticeably absent. The governor denied this indicated a debate and vote might not occur, saying the leaders simply wanted to brief the 32-member Democratic conference before speaking publicly.

Paterson said, "Usually these types of commitments come after meeting with the membership . . . they will stand behind this commitment."

Gay marriage had more support before last week's setbacks in Maine and a race for New York's 23rd U.S. House seat. The votes of moderate Republicans were lost after GOP Assemb. Dierdre Scozzafava was forced to bow out from the House race by conservatives upset with her support of same-sex marriage. The Senate GOP hopes to win back the majority in 2010 and needs Conservative Party backing.

Upstate Democrats also were unnerved by a Maine referendum that overturned a marriage law adopted in May.

Alan Van Capelle, director of Empire State Pride Agenda, called the Senate leaders' promise "very significant . . . [and] I trust the individuals in the room to honor the commitment that was made," he said.

State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) added that whether the same-sex marriage bill will pass "did not play into the decision at all."

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