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Paterson: Lack of same-sex marriage is 'discrimination'

Gov. David A. Paterson Thursday called his effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State a move to reform a legal system of discrimination. "Anyone that has ever experienced degradation or intolerance would understand," Paterson said in announcing his marriage-equality bill at his Manhattan office. "All of us know the indignation that one feels from being victims of discrimination." Paterson's same-sex bill, which would provide the same civil rights afforded to couples of the opposite sex, faces tough opposition from some community leaders, lawmakers and clergy. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) who backs the bill, has yet to secure enough votes in support of the measure and didn't attend the governor's news conference. He later released a statement saying, "I am fully committed to continuing the process of securing 32 votes necessary for passage." Paterson was joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, other elected officials and a host of gay rights advocates at his office. The proposal is the same bill introduced in 2007 by the Democratic-controlled State Assembly. That proposal died in the then-Republican-ruled Senate. Paterson said the timing of the bill comes "with the wind at our backs" because New York State could ride the momentum generated from four other states - Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont - that permit same-sex unions. Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, an evangelical pastor, opposes the bill and criticized Paterson, calling him "disrespectful" for promoting the proposal as New York City Catholics welcome their new leader, Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Paterson, who is Catholic and attended the installation of Dolan on Wednesday, defended the timing of his announcement, saying he has supported same-sex marriage publicly since 1994. "I haven't in any way changed my point of view," he said. Dolan has pledged to challenge legalizing same-sex marriages and the Rev. Arthur Mackey of Roosevelt called for all people of faiths to take a stand for marriage as a "holy union solely between a man and a woman." "I cannot affirm the redefinition of marriage by New York State government," said Mackey, of Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt. Paterson Thursday stayed away from defining marriage and focused on the important life decisions same-sex couples are unable to make, including medical care, property ownership and inheritance. "This is a civil rights issue," Paterson said. "For too long . . . we have pretended that they have the same rights as their neighbors and friends." Opponent of the bill Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said Paterson is "pushing for a gay marriage bill" to divert attention from the state's budget woes.

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