Dozens of gay couples are planning to
converge on Albany, N.Y., Thursday to witness what would be a historic vote to
legalize gay marriage in New York. But for that to happen, Gov. Andrew
Cuomo’s considerable political skills will be tested as never before to
engineer one of the biggest social changes in a generation.
The Democrat has been using a kind of shuttle diplomacy to privately
test proposals for additional religious exceptions within the Senate’s
Republican majority. He’s talked to individual senators or small groups
of lawmakers privately, breaking down barriers and letting them take his
message to others in the Republican caucus.
The proposed protections are aimed at saving religious groups from
discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to recognize gay marriage based
on their principles.
Those exceptions—carve-outs in the political lexicon—are intended
to coax the state Senate’s Republican majority, most who oppose gay
marriage, to allow the bill to the Senate where Cuomo thinks it will
pass by a bipartisan vote led by Democrats. He’s made the issue one of
his primary objectives in his first year in office.
“Will the conference allow a vote to be taken, that’s the threshold,”
Cuomo said Wednesday evening. “I’m pro-marriage equality, I’m also
pro-First Amendment, I’m pro-church-state separation and I’m
pro-religious freedom. So I also have the same concern.”