Smith says NY Senate lacks gay marriage votes

Posted on 09 Feb 2009 at 1:42pm
By Associated Press

But Senate majority leader says he’s committed to passing marriage bill ‘soon’

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said Saturday, Feb. 7 that his Democratic conference lacks enough votes to legalize gay marriage this year, but he’s committed to passing a gay marriage bill soon.

Smith said in remarks prepared for a Human Rights Campaign event in Manhattan that he strongly supports equal marital rights for gay couples.

"Although we don’t have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality and gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage when we have the votes," said Smith, of Queens.

But his confirmation that he lacks enough votes is likely a disappointment for gay rights advocates, who had hoped gay marriage would pass after Democrats took control of the Senate in the November elections.

Democrats won a 32-30 majority after more than 40 years of GOP rule in the chamber. But initially four, then three dissident Democrats threatened to side with Republicans if they didn’t get the lucrative leadership positions they sought or attention to their top legislative issues.

Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, a minister, has said he wouldn’t vote for a majority leader who would let a gay marriage bill reach the floor. Sen. Carl Kruger, a conservative Brooklyn Democrat, also had some concerns about gay marriage.

Without either of their votes, Smith would need Republican support. And the GOP conference has been at odds with Democrats over legislative rules, staffing and resources since the rough transition of power.

"We have reason to be encouraged," Smith said. "We’re winning in the court of public opinion. I believe that the opponents aren’t gripped by the kind of all-consuming passion, if you will, to derail the rights of same-sex couples to unite under law … we all want marriage and family, and a home to raise our families."

Democratic Gov. David Paterson and the Democrat-controlled Assembly have been supportive of a gay marriage bill that was blocked by the Senate’s former Republican majority.

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