During the special legislative session in New York this fall, Governor David Paterson has said that he will again push for equal marriage rights in the Empire State.
The main purpose of the session, which many insiders anticipate will come toward the end of September, will be to close the $2.1 billion budget gap for this year. But Paterson said same-sex marriage should also be one of the issues up for discussion.
“Normally I wouldn't do it this way,” he said of adding the marriage bill as an agenda item to a special session. “But I felt that the whole fight over the coup denied the people of New York resolution on a number of issues that were very controversial and had been discussed and advocated for. I think that we owe the public a proper disposition on those pieces of legislation, and one of those was marriage equality.”
State Senator Tom Duane, who would carry the bill, said that once legislation is put on the - “active list” - of agenda items for a session, it should go straight to the rules committee and then directly to the floor for a vote - “de facto,” as he put it.
“When it is put on the agenda, I am very optimistic that it will pass,” Duane said, expressing confidence that he had the 32 votes necessary to put the bill on the governor’s desk.
“I am confident that if people are voting their consciences, their hearts, and politics doesn't interfere, we'll have marriage in New York state.”
Governor Paterson also acknowledged that he would need the cooperation of the Democratic leadership, Senate President Malcolm Smith and Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., to make a vote happen.
“I will be talking to them about what they plan on doing,” Paterson said. “In the end, I can’t bring the bill to the floor. We will need the leadership of the Senate, and we’ll need bipartisan support to pass the bill.”
Governor Paterson introduced his marriage bill in April amid some dissent. The measure passed the assembly, 89-52, in May. But in June a power struggle between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate ground Albany to a halt, bottlenecking attempts to get a vote on the bill. By July, Democrats regained control of the Senate with Espada becoming the majority leader and Senator Smith remaining senate president.
“After the loss of Proposition 8 in California, I've sensed a little confusion and maybe stunned reaction from a lot of the advocates,” Paterson said. Legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, he added, could help “reignite” the marriage spark that tore through the Northeastern states earlier this year.
“I think New York can play an immense role in terms of the national discussion about marriage equality and getting that train right back on the track,” Paterson said.