Senate Moves Closer to Gay Marriage Vote

New York's three top political leaders support several additional religious exceptions to a gay marriage bill and are in critical negotiations over wording.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver say that while there's no deal, talks are encouraging.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Wednesday evening that a vote on several matters, including rent stabilization and the possible vote on gay marriage, would be "likely tomorrow."

More protection for religious organizations such as adoption agencies and marriage counselors is sought by undecided Republican senators who are key to the vote.

Currently, the Senate appears to be one vote shy of making New York the sixth state where gay marriage is legal. It's viewed as a critical moment in the national gay rights movement.

Republican senators went into a closed-door caucus Wednesday morning, but the gay marriage bill wasn't on the immediate agenda as they took up other major issues including a property tax cap, New York City rent control and public college tuition increases.

Outside the Senate conference, members of several congregations sang hymns including "Amazing Grace'' alternating with "God Bless America'' in peaceful demonstrations by those for and against same-sex marriage.

The Democrat-led Assembly has already passed Cuomo's bill. The issue appears to be one vote shy from approval in the Senate, if the Republican caucus, which mostly opposes gay marriage, allows the measure to the floor for a vote.

If it passes the Senate, the Assembly is ready to adopt any additional religious protections. Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. Of them, all but Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., allow at least limited religious exemptions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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