Gov. Andrew Cuomo is lobbying individual senators in a quest to secure what appears to be one more vote needed to legalize gay marriage in New York and deliver a major win for the national effort.
The Democrat met with three Republican senators in his Capitol office Thursday and plans to meet with more today, the day Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos predicted his house would bring the bill to a floor vote.
The quietly called meetings come as the issue is stalled in the Senate, leading the Senate’s Democratic leader to say Republicans are more concerned with protecting their majority.
Some advocates had thought a gay marriage law could be enacted as early as Tuesday, but there is still no plan by the Senate to send the bill to the floor.
“The meetings are ongoing,” said Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto, putting no end date to the closed-door sessions.
“I’m still a ‘no,’ I’m still talking to people, so I’ll let that speak for itself,” said Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island after leaving Cuomo’s office Thursday night.
He said he continues to seek further protections for religious groups opposed to gay marriage so they can’t be prosecuted for discrimination if they refuse to allow their property or services to be used during gay marriage ceremonies.
Lanza wouldn’t say if he believes the bill will get a floor vote.
Republican Sens. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie and Kemp Hannon of Long Island attended the hour-long meeting but would not comment on it. Saland has said he’s undecided.
Republicans will resume their private caucus today and could decide to send the bill to the floor for a vote, or not introduce it at all.
A vote by the entire Senate could happen as early as today.
Nationally, attention has been riveted on New York state since early in the week when Cuomo announced he had won more votes in favor of the bill.
“It creates a lot of anxiety while you’re waiting to find out if you’ll be granted the right that your family, friends and even your own parents took for granted,” said Ron Zacchi of Marriage Equality USA at the Capitol in Albany.
Social media sites buzzed with meeting-by-meeting updates by advocates.
Earlier, Senate Democrat leader John Sampson of Brooklyn accused the Republican majority of being more concerned with protecting its majority power and its conservative voter base than approving what he calls a civil right supported by most New Yorkers.
“This is what the public wants,” said Sampson, who as the former majority leader brought a similar gay marriage bill to the floor in 2009 only to see it defeated.
“This vote should come to the floor irrespective of political consequences because I think that is what the concern is at this point and time,” Sampson said. “Who do you represent?”
Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco of Onondaga County in a separate interview said such a political concern is a factor in whether he will vote to bring the bill to the floor, where Democrats and two Republicans — Sens. James Alesi of Monroe County and Roy McDonald of Saratoga County — appear to have brought the issue to within one vote of passage.
“If you are a member of a team, and you want to decide as a team what the best thing is to do for the conference as a whole, then you should do it as a team,” DeFrancisco said.
Skelos, a senator from Long Island who opposes gay marriage, has said the caucuses will decide if the bill goes the floor for a vote where senators are free to vote their consciences, not the Republican line.
“We pass bills on their merits,” said Skelos’ spokesman Mark Hansen.
“I can understand anxiety as a true struggle of conscience,” said Jason Ganns, 27, an Albany accountant who is gay and lobbying for same-sex marriage. “I don’t necessarily understand the political anxiety. It could cost a Republican his or her job, but I don’t see the logic of fighting for a job that you are not doing.”