Even as voters in California banned same-sex marriage in a tight referendum, Tuesday’s election opened the door for the same debate in New York.
The pending shift in state Senate control away from Republicans removes one clear obstacle to legalizing gay marriage in New York, though opponents aren’t conceding anything yet and advocates say they have work to do.
Democrats won a narrow majority in New York’s Senate, where Republicans have buried legislation to start issuing marriage licenses regardless of gender. A Senate power shift was not a sure thing because four Democrats were considering an alliance with the Republicans, which could swing the 32-30 majority back to Republicans.
“The only chance we had for meaningful debate or consideration of these issues in the state Senate was with a new Senate leadership,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest gay rights advocacy group. He added that no bills have passed in New York without some votes from members of both parties.
The Rev. Duane Motley, founder of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which opposes gay marriage, said they knew that with Republicans in control of the Senate that legislation to legalize it “was not going to come up.” With Democrats in control, he said party members will be pushing for it, but he questioned whether they have the votes.
“I think there’s at least four or five Democrats who wouldn’t support it,” said Motley, who said his group represents more than 2,000 evangelical churches and 500 other Christian organizations statewide. He believes the Republican senators will remain opposed.
The Democrat-controlled state Assembly in 2007 passed legislation to legalize gay marriage 85-61, a measure backed by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
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