New York lawmakers planned Wednesday to take a final vote on a bill to legalize gay marriage.
If the Senate approves the measure, New York would be on the way to becoming the sixth state where gay marriage is legal. Gov. David Paterson has said he supports the measure, characterizing it as a civil rights issue.
Thirty-two votes are needed to pass the bill, but some of the 32 Democrats in the Senate were opposed to the measure.
During debate, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz, a conservative minister from the Bronx, urged his colleagues to reject the bill.
"To the Republicans, remember your roots, remember your values, remember your tradition of family values," Diaz said. "Join me, a Democrat. Join me, a Hispanic. Join me, a Puerto Rican. Join me, a black and minority. Join me as a senator of New York and say no."
But Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, challenged lawmakers to set aside their personal religious beliefs. He asked them to remember that once even slavery was the norm.
"When I walk through these doors, my Bible stays out," Adams said. "We have the legacy for setting the tone for the rest of the country. This is an important issue. We are not going to sit on the sidelines."
The state Assembly approved the bill earlier this year, and passed the measure again Wednesday, 88-51, a procedural move to allow the Senate to vote on it.
Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and a leader in the majority, said the legislation would need Republican votes because of opposition from some of the chamber's Democrats.
Krueger said gay rights advocates believed they had at least a few Republican votes.
"I'm optimistic," Krueger said. "The question is are the Republican votes there."
Republican Sen. Thomas Morahan said his conference hadn't taken a head count as of Wednesday morning and he wasn't sure enough GOP senators would support the measure.
"It's going to be a close vote," said Morahan, of Rockland County, whose conference blocked the bill for years when Republicans were the majority. He said he would vote against the legislation.
A Marist College poll released Wednesday showed 51 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing gay marriage, while 42 percent opposed the measure. The poll questioned 805 registered voters Nov. 12-16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.
Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. A New Hampshire law legalizing the practice takes effect Jan. 1. Thirty-four states lack any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Openly gay State Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) said that legislators should wait for more states to pass New York by, pointing out that New Jersey is close to a same-sex marriage bill.
"They may have the Jets, they may have the Giants, but they're not taking this away from us -- we're beating New Jersey," said Duane