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New York a vote away from approving gay marriage

The Assembly easily approved the bill, but the Republican-led state Senate is one vote shy of passage. Supporters say the momentum is on their side.

June 16, 2011|By Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times

"Six national polls in a row have shown the majority of Americans support the freedom to marry," said Marc Solomon, a national pro-gay-marriage organizer who has been involved both in New York and in California's effort to overturn Proposition 8. "Even since voters approved Proposition 8, public opinion has come far quickly towards tolerance. And there is a reason for that: People are getting to know gay people and gay couples and understand why marriage is important to them."

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which has been a major supporter of Proposition 8, said New York's possible approval does not portend a shift in the tide for gay marriage.

"In every single state — and there have been 31 — that puts this issue before the voters, marriage is protected," Brown said. "If New York votes against marriage, it's a big loss. But we have had many victories."

New York has no initiative or referendum process, so the only way opponents could seek to reverse the measure, if it becomes law, would be to pursue a constitutional amendment. Such an amendment would require voter support, but only after two successive Legislatures approve it — a seemingly unlikely prospect given that the New York Assembly has approved same-sex marriage bills four times in two years.

The campaign to legalize gay marriage has featured volunteers walking the streets of key districts, handing a cellphone to voters who say they support the measure and asking them to call a hesitant senator's district office.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. of Queens has been the focus of some of those calls. Two years ago he voted against a bill to legalize gay marriage, insisting the majority of the constituents who contacted his office opposed the issue.

"This time Sen. Addabbo is hearing from people, all sorts of people, who think it's OK for gays to marry," said volunteer Monica Siu, a 20-year-old college sophomore who was approaching voters last week in Ozone Park, Queens.

A young African American postal worker, who said she was gay, signed a petition card. An elderly Puerto Rican woman signed, explaining she had a gay aunt. A retired city worker from Guyana signed. "I like Sen. Addabbo, he's a good guy," he said, dialing the district office. "He'll come around."

The next day Siu dropped off a plastic bin stuffed with signature cards at Addabbo's district office. This week, Addabbo, along with two other Democrats who two years ago voted against gay marriage, changed his mind.

At a news conference, he said the last time he voted, 73% of his constituents who contacted his office opposed same-sex marriage. This time, he said, of the 6,015 people in his district who contacted his office, 4,839 wanted him to vote for same-sex marriage.

"In the end, that is my vote," Addabbo said.

Interactive: Track gay marriage rights in the U.S.

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