June 24, 2011
By Adam Bink
Nicholas Confessore at the NYTimes reports:
ALBANY– The Cuomo administration and legislative leaders have reached agreement on language that would protect religious institutions from obligations to recognize same-sex marriage, two people involved in the negotiations said on Friday afternoon, potentially paving the way for a vote on the marriage legislation.
Senate Republicans were still discussing the marriage bill among themselves in a close door meeting on Thursday afternoon. And it remained unclear whether — and even if — they would permit a vote on the broader legislation. Assembly lawmakers, which approved an earlier version of the same-sex marriage bill last week, would need to approve the new language in a new vote before the full bill could become law.
Emerging from a meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsor of the gay marriage bill in the assembly, said that there was an “agreement in principle” on the new language. He predicted the new language would be adopted on Friday.
Gay-rights advocates were hopeful that the same-sex marriage bill, which had been approved by the State Assembly and supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would win passage before lawmakers ended their annual session.
As of Friday morning, the number of senators who had voiced support for the marriage measure — 31 out of 62, one short of a majority — had not changed in over a week. And negotiations over protections for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage had yielded no final agreement between Republicans and Mr. Cuomo, raising the prospect that the Legislature could adjourn without addressing the politically freighted legislation.
Most Republican senators say they strongly oppose the measure on religious or moral grounds. Still others are worried that it would provoke a spate of primary challenges — or low turnout among conservatives — next year, when Republicans will be battling to retain their one-vote Senate majority in newly redrawn legislative districts that could prove less hospitable to long-serving incumbents.
The question is whether Republicans themselves come forward to say they are comfortable with the language and whether they’ll bring up the bill.