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News: World

Wed 22 Jun, 2011
By Sam Bristowe

We're open to doing amendments that guarantee religious freedom in this state

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NY gay marriage decision looms

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After a day of more closed-door negotiations, New York's Senate left unsettled a bill to legalise gay marriage, setting up a pivotal showdown Wednesday as lawmakers look to end the legislative session and national groups look for a sign of things to come on the divisive issue.

The vote in the New York legislature is seen as a critical moment in the national debate over same-sex marriage.

The Assembly has already passed Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's bill, and the issue appears to be one vote shy from approval in the Senate, if the Republican caucus which mostly opposes gay marriage allows the measure to the floor for a vote.

The effort to legalize same-sex marriage largely stalled two years ago when the state Senate voted it down. Since then, the movement has failed in Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Advocates hope a "yes" vote in New York will jumpstart the effort.

Susan Lerner, a good government advocate from the group Common Cause, said this year's debate has attracted more attention than any social issue since the abortion fights of the 1970s.

In 2008, gay marriage advocates gave a major financial hand to Democrats who won the state Senate, the first time Republicans were out of control in 50 years. Democrats promised to legalise gay marriage but failed in 2009, then lost the majority in 2010.

On Tuesday, Albany's backroom dealing cleared the way for the possible Wednesday vote.

After an expected marathon session Tuesday to pass a mega deal involving tax, tuition and other issues, the Republican-led Senate now will be able to focus on whether to release a gay marriage bill to the floor for a vote.

Two Republicans clearly undecided are Sen. Stephen Saland of the Hudson Valley, one of the Senate's most veteran and respected members; and Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, a freshman who is part of the GOP youth movement voted into office in the 2010 Republican tide nationwide.

Negotiations continue over additional religious protections that some undecided Republicans have sought, and progress appears to have been made in closed-door talks.

"We're open to doing amendments that guarantee religious freedom in this state," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, indicating a key movement on his part.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican opposed to gay marriage, said language regarding religious protection has not been finalised.

"That is still being reviewed," he said.

Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. Of them, all but Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., allow at least limited religious exemptions.

New York's legislative session had been scheduled to end Monday.

Source: AP


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