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Gay Marriage in New York: Over the Hump Today?

Today could be the day when gay marriage equality passes its biggest hurdle in New York State yet and actually achieves something it never has before: likely passage in the state senate. With 31 of the necessary 32 votes already publicly announced, the effort only needs one GOP senator for this to happen.

This is not as inconceivable as this would have sounded even a few days ago. Over the weekend, gay marriage advocates picked up three Democratic senators who had voted no in 2009. On Monday, James Alesi of Rochester became the first GOP Senator to announce his support.

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo introduced the Marriage Equality Bill. Then Republican Senator Roy McDonald said that he'd vote yes, that he expects a vote by Friday and that, "I'm tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I'm trying to do the right thing, and that's where I'm going with this."

And, as of last night, Republican Senators Stephan Saland, Mark Grisanti, and Andrew Lanza have all announced that they've moved from "no" to "undecided" and seem to be publicly wrestling with the issue.

Lanza, whose Staten Island district borders the one represented by vehemently pro gay marriage equality Senator Diane Savino, will be under extreme pressure by constituents on both sides today. New York marriage advocates were alight last night on Facebook and twitter, encouraging their Staten Island friends and family to get on the horn with Lanza.

And the group Queer Rising, who has repeatedly held Governor Cuomo's feet to the fire, cancelled an event last night meant to put pressure on him. Apparently they've finally been convinced that he's going to come through, and they spent the evening gathering constituent signatures on Staten Island to deliver to Lanza's office instead.

Of course, any number of things could still derail the Marriage Equality Bill before Governor Cuomo could sign it, even if a 32nd Senator comes out in support today. These are public pledges, but they could change by the time of a floor vote. The bill still has to pass the state Assembly, which has passed similar bills three times before, but which has also lost a number of members who voted "yes" the last time it came up.

Still, the signs are very encouraging. State Assemblyman Daniel O' Donnell says that he has 68 co-sponsors in his chamber. Capital Tonight tweeted that the GOP will conference in the Senate on the issue today from 10 AM to noon. Despite threats from Conservative Party, Republican Senate Major Leader Dean Skelos is saying that he expects the bill to come up for a Senate vote on Friday. Sources are telling us that not one but three more Republican senators should be coming out (in support, that is).

And, at least one marriage group is scoping out space for a victory party here in New York this week.

sthrasher@villagevoice.com / @steven_thrasher


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