Paterson defers to Senate leader on gay marriage

Posted on 23 Apr 2009 at 7:13pm
By Michael Virtanen Associated Press

N.Y. governor says Sen. Smith knows ‘inertia’ of Senate better than he does

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson, who last week called for immediate action on legislation to legalize gay marriage in New York, said Wednesday, April 22 he will abide by the Senate Democratic leader’s decision on the best approach for trying to win Senate passage.

Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens backs the measure but wants to first secure the 32 votes needed necessary, and he has been missing a few. Announcing his support last week, Paterson urged putting it on the floor of the Legislature for debate despite an uncertain vote.

"Our work to correct injustice cannot depend on factors like timing or guaranteed success," Paterson said April 16, noting gay and lesbian couples are denied some 1,300 rights granted to married couples. "We will not wait any longer. Now is the time for action."

The governor had acknowledged then that he was not demanding that Smith do anything and he would take his cue from the legislative sponsors and leaders, but he had started to hear that anxiety would keep Democrats from bringing the bill to the floor this year.

"I just wanted to create the option so that we can go forward, and I think we should," Paterson said. "The real question is what would make the bill pass sooner."

Talking to reporters again Wednesday, Paterson said he won’t tell Smith what to do.

"On this particular bill, there are a lot of other issues related to it," Paterson said. "Sen. Smith knows the inertia of the Senate better than anyone else. I’ll stick with his judgment."

The marriage bill passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly in 2007 and is expected to pass there again.

In the Senate, the former Senate Republican majority opposed it. The Democrats have a narrow 32-30 majority, but a few Democratic senators are opposed and no Republicans have come out in favor.

Smith said he remains "a strong supporter of marriage equality" and "fully committed to continuing the process of securing the 32 votes necessary for passage."

A Siena poll released Monday, April 20 found 53 percent of voters want the gay marriage bill, with support strongest among New York City Democrats, the political base of the governor from Harlem. Thirty-nine percent of voters opposed the measure, including most Republicans, men, older voters, blacks and Protestants.

Opponents include the Catholic Church.

Associated Press writer Valerie Bauman contributed to this report.

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