ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – As lawmakers continue to hash out a gay marriage bill in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become a prominent champion of legalized gay marriage, pushing his state into the center of the national debate over an emotional and divisive issue.
The Democrat has been personally lobbying for the same-sex marriage bill this week in a quest to secure what appears to be one more vote needed to legalize gay marriage and deliver a major win for the national effort.
He has said the extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians is “a matter of principle, not politics.”
“This state has a proud tradition and a proud legacy as the progressive capital of the nation,” he said Friday. “We led the way, and it’s time for New York to lead the way once again.”
After a closed door meeting with Cuomo Friday, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged to say that there would be no vote at least until Monday.
“The meetings are ongoing,” said Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto, putting no end date to the closed-door sessions.
Cuomo’s support for gay rights is already known to New York voters. His efforts this past week to get the bill through the Republican-controlled state Senate, the lone roadblock to passage, make good on an issue he ran on last year. During that campaign, he took his daughters to a gay pride parade in New York City, drawing sharp criticism from his Republican opponent.
“The governor is putting skin in the game and has a steadfast commitment to the issue,” said Kevin Nix of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group. “That he’s made marriage equality a priority for this legislative session speaks volumes about his commitment.”
As a purely political matter, advocating for gay marriage makes sense for Democrats in a state like New York, where gay groups are players in party politics. Cuomo’s lobbying, coming after he pushed through a fiscally conservative budget, also could burnish his image among liberals.
He is opposed, though, by some conservative groups and religious leaders. Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York last week in a blog likened the effort to “redefine” marriage to something that would be done in China or North Korea.
Still, polls this year have shown that more than half of voters in New York support gay marriage, with backing heaviest among Democrats. Cuomo’s position is also in line with New York’s last two governors and its two Democratic U.S. senators. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been a high-profile advocate of gay rights issues, and Sen. Charles Schumer came out in support of gay marriage in 2009.
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