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Same-Sex Marriage Issue Takes Over Albany As Rest Of N.Y. Waits In Anticipation

Gov. Cuomo Optimistic; Senate Republicans Under Intense Pressure
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New York Senate

New York State Senate (credit: Daniel Barry/Getty Images)

Tony Aiello thumbnail Tony Aiello
Tony Aiello serves as a CBS 2 general assignment reporter. After...
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ALBANY (CBSNewYork) — There were passionate protests on Wednesday and still no vote on same-sex marriage from the Senate.

Republicans, who control the vote, have yet to decide if they want one — or when, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Late Wednesday night a Senate spokesman said that discussion of the issue wouldn’t begin until Thursday at the earliest.

Earlier in the day you could hear the sound ringing throughout the state capital — pro and con chanting from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. By Wednesday night senators seemed to be tuning out pleas to make a decision one way or the other.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond has the latest on the gay marriage debate

Protesters were side by side in the Senate halls, passionately for and against gay marriage. Supporters included celebrity chef Mario Batali.

Batali said he was in Albany, “to express my opinion about one of the biggest votes in New York State right now, which is pro-equality, pro-liberty, pro-justice for all.

On the other side, some opponents were in the midst of their third straight day of demonstrations.

“It’s very tiring but it’s worth it. We want them to get the message that they need to do the wise thing for New York State. And gay marriage is not wise for New York State,” Rebecca Hall said.

Forget the hallways; the real action was taking place behind closed doors, where Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The issue appears to be one vote shy in the GOP-controlled senate. The governor is trying to win votes for the Marriage Equality Act by adding language to protect religious organizations from lawsuits for refusing to accommodate same-sex couples who want to get married.

“My colleagues and the counsel’s office are looking very closely at the religious protections and I think they are working through that once we have final legislation we will discuss it,” Skelos said.

“The concepts, certainly, are agreed to but there is no final agreement on the language,” Silver added.

Cuomo, a sponsor of the controversial measure, said he felt positive votes were stacking in favor of the bill.

“Not that you know it’s going to succeed because you never know until the vote is actually cast, but we reached a point, a threshold where we believe there was a high likelihood of success,” Cuomo said.

The pressure on Senate Republicans is incredible. Most of them run with support from the small but influential Conservative Party. Chairman Mike Long has been urging them not to bring this bill up for a vote.

In quick order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. approved gay marriage, but then Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island all rejected it.

“We think it’s a bellwether state, and I think what happens in New York will impact across the nation,” gay marriage opponent Jason McGuire said.

McGuire said it would be wrong for the state Senate to vote on gay marriage without holding public hearings.

“Before we rush to make a decision like this we ought to at least hold hearings and look at the evidence that’s presented,” McGuire said.

But supporters said senators have been weighing the issue for years — and it’s time to make New York the latest and largest state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“My wife, Cary, and I did get married in Vermont two years ago, and it’s about time that we had the same rights here in New York. This is where we live, where we pay taxes. That’s why we’re here,” supporter Patty Lloyd-Preddice said.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn described the issue as being in “the home stretch” of what she believes will be a successful attempt to legalize same-sex marriage.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports: Quinn Says Same-Sex Legislation A Big Jump Forward

“The effort to move human rights forward is never easy and often it takes longer than those of who are engaged in the battle would like it to take,” said Quinn. “But when this bill passes, it is going to be a monumental step forward but it’s going to be a monumental step forward that was brought to us by every day New Yorkers.”

Quinn praised the efforts of phone bank workers who have directed tens of thousands of calls to state Senate offices.

All of the Democratic senators are on board with the bill, except for Rev. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx.

“There are a lot of people in the State of New York that are against gay marriage. And the legislators have told the senate, people are saying, ‘Reverend Diaz, Reverend Diaz.’ This is not Reverend Diaz’ issue. This is the people’s issue. And they have the same right to protest and the same rights as anybody else,” Diaz said.

Lawmakers are also trying to wrap up work on bills to extend rent control in New York City, and the so-called “property tax cap.”

For or against same-sex marriage in New York? Contact Dean Skelos and let him know. And let us know what you think below.

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