ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Old-time, backroom politics faced down hundreds of chanting protesters from each side of the highly charged gay marriage debate in New York on Monday as the issue stalled again over whether religious groups could be protected from discrimination charges under a same-sex marriage law.
And Albany’s notoriously entrenched politics won, for now.
After a three-hour conference behind closed doors, while groups from each side waited in a stifling hot hallway, Senate Republicans emerged without comment. A vote within the conference to even move the bill to the floor for final legislative approval was pushed to at least Tuesday as private negotiations continue between Republican Senate leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who made same-sex marriage a major initiative.
New York’s vote is pivotal in the national question over same-sex marriage, an effort that largely stalled in the same room two years ago when the Senate voted it down. Since then, efforts have failed in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland. Advocates hope a “yes” vote in the nation’s third-most populous state will jumpstart the effort.
Skelos worries a federal judge could strike down flimsy religious protections in the current proposal if a religious group, such as the Knights of Columbus, is sued for discrimination for refusing to provide its hall for a gay wedding. Skelos wants protections that will allow a religious group to observe its principles without conflicting with a gay marriage law.
“I think that’s critically important,” Skelos said.
Same-sex marriage has entered the uncertainty of the final days of the session in Albany, where horse trading over unrelated issues brokered in private is the norm, and where measures can be weakened or dropped, followed by a fast exit. In this case, gay marriage is now tied to resuming and possibly strengthening the New York City rent control law sought by Democrats and a proposed cap on property taxes statewide, pushed by Cuomo and Republicans.