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Gay marriage opponents get nat'l funding

ALBANY -- Opponents of gay marriage in New York got national funding yesterday as lobbyists, clergy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators head for a six-week legalization showdown with global implications.

The $1.5 million from the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage comes with the organization's expertise after recent success against same-sex marriage bills in Maryland, Rhode Island and in a New York congressional primary.

That portends a huge fight against gay rights groups and the $1 million they pledge for the effort led by Cuomo, using the considerable organizational skill of some of his top deputies. Supporters say New York, as the world's media capital, is a key objective for the legislative session that ends in late June.

"It's become quite clear in recent days in New York that Gov. Cuomo and same-sex marriage advocates are targeting a select number of Democrat state senators, as well as some Republicans, in their desperate attempt to coerce legislators to support their agenda," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

Brown said "those courageous" legislators will have a stronger supporter.

The group takes credit for derailing a gay marriage bill in Maryland, which was sent back to committee in March, and blocking a bill in Rhode Island this year. "We expect the same to happen in New York," Brown said.

In Albany, the New York State Council Knights of Columbus opposed same-sex marriage as part of its annual prayer rally. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan made his case in recent weeks through CBS' "60 Minutes" and The New York Times.

Cuomo, riding high in the polls, said yesterday in Syracuse that the legislature needs to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of the legislative session in June, or voters will hold them accountable.

"I believe it is a fundamental civil rights battle," Cuomo said in his statewide tour to pressure lawmakers on his policy goals. He added that committed gay couples should not be "second-tier citizens."

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