A bill in Albany that would allow alleged sex abuse victims from decades-old cases to file lawsuits is dead for now, but politicians and advocacy groups say they plan to bring it up again.

The bill died last week when a State Senate committee voted it down.

Advocates thought they had their best chance in years of passing it, since both houses and the governor's seat are controlled by Democrats. The bill has passed the Assembly three times.

"It is a sad commentary that opposing senators in the Codes Committee acted to derail that hope," said Assemb. Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), the main sponsor of the Assembly bill. "They acted instead to protect pedophiles who have raped and sodomized children by preventing the full Senate from debating this legislation."

But the New York State Catholic Conference, which vociferously opposed the bill, said its defeat headed off - for now - what could have been a disastrous financial blow not just to churches but to school districts and local governments.

"This bill would have had catastrophic consequences for property taxpayers across the state with the expected flood of lawsuits against public school districts, counties, cities and towns," said Richard E. Barnes, the conference's executive director.

"It also would have been devastating to the ministries of the Catholic Church and any other organization that has worked with children in the past," he said.

That dispute aside, both sides agree the Markey bill, known as the Child Victims Act, is almost certain to return when the next session of the Assembly and Senate begins in January.

"Sure it will be back next year," said Dennis Proust, a spokesman for the conference. And he said its defeat is not certain. "We wouldn't be fighting it if we didn't think it has a chance" of passing in the future.

David Clohessy, national director of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said, "We will absolutely keep pushing" for passage of the bill. "We feel like it is both our moral duty, frankly, and the single most effective way to protect kids in New York."

The bill is similar to ones passed in just two other states, California and Delaware, and would in effect temporarily drop the seven-year statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes. It would provide a one-year open window for victims to file lawsuits regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

Proponents contend it would allow victims, who often take years to come to grips with childhood sex abuse, to finally see justice. Opponents such as Barnes say it could involve cases from as far back as 58 years, and involve people no longer alive.

Markey amended her bill last year to make public institutions such as schools as liable as religious groups. But that provoked new opposition from powerful groups such as the New York State School Boards Association and the New York Association of Counties.

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