Dueling Gay Marriage Rallies Heat Up Debate

State Senate has 18 days left before session ends for the year

By Jim Scott
|  Tuesday, May 19, 2009  |  Updated 12:03 PM EDT
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Cynthia Nixon shows an engagement ring from her partner Christine Marinoni at an Action=Marriage Equality rally in midtown yesterday.

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The heated debate over gay marriage took to the New York City streets yesterday as dueling protests battled for media attention.

Thousands of protesters opposed to gay marriage rallied near Gov. David Paterson's midtown office near Times Square.

Meanwhile, the governor was at a rally for same-sex marriage at Rockefeller Center with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and "Sex in the City" actress Cynthia Nixon.

“We’re in a race right now in New York,” the governor told a crowd of several hundred people, according to The New York Times. “The time for justice, the time for equality, the time for equal rights can never be any more urgent than right now.”

Paterson urged the State Senate Sunday to take swift action on legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

"I believe this is the year that we can make history," Mayor Bloomberg said.

"It's time already," said Nixon, who announced her engagement longtime girlfriend Christine Marinoni, according to the New York Daily News.

The window to pass the historic legislation is closing quickly. The State Senate will be in session for just six more weeks before adjourning for the year.

“There are 18 days left in the Senate session,” Thomas K. Duane, the Senate’s only openly gay member, told The Times. “I need your help.”

The State Assembly passed the bill 89 to 52, but the bill will have a hard time getting the votes it needs to pass in the Senate. Gay rights advocates have received commitments from 25 of 62 senators. Up to four Democrats could vote against the bill, negating the slim 32-20 Democratic majority in the Senate.

Gay marriage opponents had struggled to mount any organized opposition effectively, but Sunday's rally against same-sex marriage drew thousands of people on Third Avenue. The event was organized by the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization led by Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister, the Times reported.

“We’re here to say to the governor: Mr. Governor, look at the people that are here, these are the people who say we don’t believe in marriage between a man and a man and a woman and a woman,” Díaz said.

Sen. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith neither attended either of the rallies, nor was he at Gov. Paterson's news conference last month when the governor announced the same-sex marriage bill. Smith has vowed to push the bill through the Senate, but he faces criticism from his church and conservative constituents in Queens.

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