After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.
But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.
Mr. Smith, speaking about same-sex marriage at a fund-raiser for the Empire State Pride Agenda last year, was emphatic, saying, "We're going to make sure that happens in '08, when we take over the majority." He now avoids questions on the topic and instead gives a standard reply about the need to focus on the economy when asked about it.
Asked about when Mr. Paterson would like to see the Senate vote, the governor's communications director, Risa B. Heller, said, "For now and the immediate future we are focused on the state's fiscal situation."
Some people think it might not be feasible to pass the law now, rather than just be politically unwise to try:
Some Democrats are not even confident they have the 32 votes necessary to pass a same-sex marriage bill in the Senate.
The Democratic-led Assembly passed the measure last year by a sizable margin, but the Republican-controlled Senate declined to bring it to the floor for a vote.
And with a messy fight under way over who should be Senate majority leader — a fight threatening to fracture the thin Democratic Senate majority — even typically outspoken supporters of gay rights have become more measured about the issue.
Despite the fact that Democrats will hold 32 of the 62 Senate seats in the next legislative session, three dissident Democrats have not pledged their support for the would-be majority leader, Malcolm A. Smith. One of those senators, Rub&eacut;n D&iacut;az Sr., has specifically said he would not support a majority leader who would allow a same-sex marriage bill to come to the floor.