New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally lobbied Republican state senators Tuesday to legalize gay marriage, while the Senate's Democratic leader predicted the measure won't even get to the floor this year.
Bloomberg, a major campaign contributor to the Senate GOP majority, said he argued that legalizing gay marriage is consistent with traditional Republican views of limiting government.
"Government shouldn't be in the business of telling people what they can do with their personal lives, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody," Bloomberg said. "It doesn't mean everybody has to agree, but nobody's getting hurt."
The mayor called gay marriage "one of the defining issues of our lifetime," and warned Senate Republicans they don't want to "end up on the wrong side of history."
Democratic Sen. Thomas Duane of Manhattan, sponsor of the bill and the Legislature's first openly gay lawmaker, criticized Bloomberg for heavily funding the campaigns of Republicans who oppose gay marriage. "Talk is cheap," he said.
"I detest the culture of pay-to-play here in Albany, but the mayor participates in it heavily, and yet marriage equality does not seem to be part of his litmus test," Duane said in an interview after Bloomberg's comments. "I do not understand why he continues to support them so generously, and yet none of them support my right to get married."
Duane said he's frustrated Senate Republicans, key to approval, haven't yet committed publicly to supporting same-sex marriage. But he said he doesn't believe the effort is weakening as the June 20 end of the regular legislative session approaches.
In an effort to help push the issue, Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell of Manhattan, entertainer Rosie O'Donnell's brother, introduced a same-sex marriage bill.
One of the gay rights advocates was less optimistic Tuesday.
Queer Rising issued a joint statement with the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club in New York City criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's comment last week that he won't bring the issue to the Republican-controlled Senate unless its passage is certain. The groups see that as a weakening of the effort by the popular Democratic governor, who has been closely allied with the Senate's Republican majority on budget and property tax cap initiatives.
"Cuomo's support for marriage equality is appearing more to be a political stunt than an act of commitment to do the right thing," said Queer Rising's Natasha Dillon. "The governor has not done the lobbying necessary to change votes. He had misled New Yorkers into believing that passage of marriage equality was going to happen this year and now is backtracking."
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto denied that.
"The governor is working closely on a coordinated strategy with key legislators, groups, and advocates to see that marriage equality becomes the law of this state," Vlasto said.
The coalition working with Cuomo, New Yorkers United for Marriage, responded that many other advocates "are committed to this legislative strategy which requires persistence, patience, dedication, discipline and most of all unity ... We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and stand together for equality."
Senate Democratic leader John Sampson of Brooklyn also defended Cuomo's efforts. Sampson said Tuesday in an interview that he has more votes for a gay marriage bill than when the measure lost in 2009, but that Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos won't let it get to a floor vote.
"I don't expect Sen. Skelos to bring it to the floor, if the Conservative Party has anything to do with it," Sampson said. "I believe the governor is doing all he can to push the issue, but there is deafening silence from the Senate majority."
Skelos, like influential state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, opposes legalizing gay marriage. But Skelos has said he would allow his conference to vote its conscience on the issue. There was no immediate comment from Skelos on Tuesday.
"They said they would" bring it to the floor, Bloomberg said, "I assume they would."
The Republicans hold a 32-30 majority in the chamber, where a gay marriage bill fell eight votes shy of approval in 2009 despite Democrats holding the majority. The measure has strong support in the Democrat-led Assembly.