Same-sex marriage supporters are hopeful that a vote will be held on the issue this legislative session, despite the likelihood that Republicans will retake the state Senate.
In a conference call with reporters this morning, Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross Levi said he was buoyed by the losses of two incumbent lawmakers who voted against the failed same-sex marriage bill last year.
He was also hopeful that incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, would push for the bill as well.
“I think there are votes to be gotten on both sides of the aisle,” Levi said. “To some degree we have to wait to see how the session plays out. I think the governor is going to be an important ally in many ways.”
But with Republicans ready to take a narrow 32-30 majority in the Senate after losing control two years ago, passage of a same-sex marriage bill is doubtful.
“I’m pretty cynical about reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, other important social issues getting any traction under Republican control of the Senate,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.
At the same time, the state faces a host of financial troubles including an estimated $9.2 billion budget deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year, setting up a potentially divisive battle between Cuomo and the Legislature.
Still, Levi said he was hopeful a vote would be held in the Senate. The Democratic-led Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage last year, but the measure faltered in the Senate despite support from Gov. David Paterson.
Levi said he was ready to work with Republicans and identify those who would be in favor of the bill.
“I believe there is a clear and credible path to victory on LGBT issues this session,” he said.
Comments critical of homosexuality made by unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino earlier this year showed statewide candidates can’t be seen as anti-gay.
“It’s now clear you can’t run for statewide office and be seen as anti-LGBT,” Levi said. “I don’t think that will be an open question ever again.”
Paladino, a businessman from Buffalo, told Hasidic Jewish leaders in October that “there is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”
Paladino’s comments were condemned by Democrats and Republicans. Paladino said the following day that he was in favor of gay rights, but not same-sex marriage.