Gov. David Paterson introduced a bill last Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State - a move similar to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal in 2007.
Two years ago, such a bill was passed in the New York State Assembly with a vote of 85 to 61, but failed in the Republican-controlled State Senate without coming to a vote on the floor.
As of now, Democrats hold the majority in the State Senate, but according to an article printed in The New York Times on April 17, Democrats in the State Senate expect only about 25 of their 32 members to support the bill. It will then depend on the ability of Paterson and other advocates to persuade on-the-fence Democrats and Republicans wary of breaking party ranks to vote in favor of the bill to assure its success.
In a Times article on April 18, Paterson said, "I'm more optimistic that it gets done," but also added, "I'm not necessarily sure that it can be done."
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Health Coordinator of AIDS Rochester Erik Libey echoed Gov. Paterson's concern, but said he is hopeful. "We've seen major advances in Iowa and Vermont," said Libey. "Several other states seem very close to making decisions as well. My hope is that New York's legislators will see the lead that other states have taken recently and that those who have up to now been on the fence will decide that supporting marriage equality in New York State is the right thing to do."
Regardless of whether there is a sure chance of the bill passing, Paterson reportedly wants it brought to the floor for a vote. This is a unique stance for a governor to take, since usually legislative leaders and state executives do not propose legislation that does not have a reasonable chance of passing. State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith is reportedly opposed to Paterson's position and wishes to bring the bill to the floor for a vote only if the outcome is fairly assured.
Paterson has pledged to personally lobby for this bill and impress on Smith and Senate Democrats that he believes that legislators who have not yet pledged their vote tend to be open to assuming a position at the final moment, according to the April 18 article.
"This could be a great thing for a lot of people," said Geneseo psychology professor Dan Repinski. "It is a human rights issue, an issue of equality and justice and an issue of equal legal protections."
"It's an amazing thing to have a governor who so clearly understands and values equality and diversity," said Libey. "LGBT New Yorkers are fortunate to have such a strong ally."
According to the Times, Paterson said he plans to begin lobbying sometime next month after gay rights groups hold their annual advocacy day in Albany, scheduled for April 28.