Protesters for and against the same-sex marriage bill protest in the halls at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., Monday, June 20, 2011.
An undecided New York state senator has turned to Twitter and Facebook to ask social media users if he should cast the deciding vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage.
Just days after Rep. Anthony Weiner imploded in a sexting scandal, Greg Ball, potentially the crucial 32nd vote necessary to pass same-sex marriage in the state senate, asked his 2,200 Twitter followers and 3,400 Facebook friends: “Opening up the discussion! So, if you were me, how would you vote on gay marriage? Yes or No?”
“I thought it was better than sending Weiner-like photos,” the first-term New York Republican, who posted the message on Friday, told POLITICO. “I’d done it in the past. I reached out on Facebook and Twitter and asked for input on many issues. It’s a good way to get feedback.”
On Twitter, the feedback is overwhelmingly in favor of a yes vote on the bill, which has yet to be formally introduced by the state senate’s GOP leadership. On Ball’s Facebook page, where users are generally less anonymous and more tend to be residents of his Hudson Valley district, response is more mixed, with Ball estimating a 50-50 split.
And in Ball’s district office, he said, calls and letters are running about 60-40 in favor of a no vote.
In the 62-member GOP-controlled state senate, 29 Democrats and two Republicans have pledged to support the bill. It is seen as not likely that Republican leadership will allow the chamber to vote on the bill if only one more Republican votes yes, thus a scramble is on to secure at least two more GOP votes for the bill, sources told POLITICO Monday.
Ball, one of a handful of Republican state senators whose votes remain in play for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and same-sex marriage advocates, said he would vote against the bill in its current form and is holding out for “strong religious protections.”
“I have very specific religious protections that I would want to see,” he said. “There may be some who don’t need as clear a protection in the bill. I think at the end of the day, the governor will have to agree to comprehensive religious protections to get this passed.”
Among the carve-outs Ball is seeking are exemptions for “church-related agencies” to make hiring and benefits decisions based on religious beliefs.
Ball predicted Cuomo will ultimately agree to the exemptions to see the bill passed. But when Cuomo met Monday with three moderate GOP state senators, Ball was not among them.
And Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto poured water on the idea that the governor will negotiate with Ball.
“Senator Ball can decide to vote with the conservatives against the bill but his characterization and description of the bill is just plain wrong,” he said. “Senator Ball is entitled to his own politics but not his own facts.”