New York same-sex marriage bill tied to other issues

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 3:04 PM
New York same-sex marriage bill tied to other issues

By Dan Wiessner

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - The fate of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in New York was up in the air on Tuesday as it was linked to progress on rent control for apartments in New York City and a property tax cap.

The same-sex marriage bill, which would make New York the sixth and largest state to allow gay nuptials, needs only one more Senate vote to pass. Undecided senators have cited concerns over exemptions for religious groups and individuals as the sticking point in negotiations.

But a vote on the measure is also being delayed as legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the bill, have reached an impasse in negotiations over separate issues including rent control and a cap on property tax increases. Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers favor expanded rent laws, while the Senate's Republican majority is seeking a simple extension.

Emerging from a closed-door meeting with Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said a "framework" agreement had been reached on the rent laws and tax cap, but refused to offer details or set a date for a Senate vote on same-sex marriage, which passed the Assembly last week. Skelos said he expected the legislature to break for a summer recess Wednesday.

Silver dismissed the notion that the marriage bill was directly linked to the other issues, and said amendments to strengthen religious protections were under discussion.

Gay-rights advocates remained optimistic, noting that the marriage bill's transformation into a key bargaining chip is a sign that it has a good chance of passage.

"People are very hopeful; there are a lot of positive signs," said Dan Weiller, a spokesman for Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's largest gay rights group.

While only one vote is needed to pass the measure, most observers believe it needs the support of an additional two or three lawmakers to shield any single senator from becoming the deciding vote. A group of three undecided senators has met privately with Cuomo several times this week.

If the bill is passed, it would make New York the sixth -- and most populous -- state to legalize gay marriage, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Four states have civil unions. Same-sex marriage is banned in 39 states.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)