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Opposing Rallies Over Issue of Same-Sex Marriage

 

    The New York Times: Opposing Rallies Over Issue of Same-Sex Marriage

    By JEREMY W. PETERS and MATHEW R. WARREN

    Gov. David A. Paterson urged the State Senate on Sunday to take swift action on legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry, signaling that he intends to increase pressure on lawmakers as the end of the 2009 legislative session approaches.

    With six weeks left before the State Legislature adjourns for the year, gay rights advocates remain short of the support they need in the Senate, and there is an increasing sense among those who support same-sex marriage that time is running out.

    Mr. Paterson, who appeared along with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other state and city leaders at a rally of gay rights activists near Rockefeller Center on Sunday afternoon, did not initially plan to attend. His last-minute appearance, which came just a few hours after thousands of same-sex marriage opponents held a much larger demonstration outside the governor’s Midtown Manhattan office, underscored the high stakes at issue in the Senate vote.

    “We’re in a race right now in New York,” the governor told a crowd of several hundred people who gathered along Avenue of the Americas. “The time for justice, the time for equality, the time for equal rights can never be any more urgent than right now.”

    The Assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill last Tuesday by a margin of 89 to 52, shifting the debate to the Senate. But the bill’s fate there remains uncertain. So far gay rights advocates have received commitments from about 25 of the 62 senators. As many as four Democrats could vote against the bill, and no Republicans have said publicly that they would support it.

    “There are 18 days left in the Senate session,” said Thomas K. Duane, the Senate’s only openly gay member. “I need your help.”

    As supporters of the bill work to round up the votes they need, opponents, who have so far struggled to organize an effective movement against same-sex marriage, appear to be making some headway. Thousands of people lined Third Avenue on Sunday to protest the bill, which Mr. Paterson introduced to the Legislature last month.

    The New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, led by Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister, organized the event. In a speech delivered in Spanish, Mr. Díaz warned the governor that there would be political consequences for supporting same-sex marriage.

    “We’re here to say to the governor: Mr. Governor, look at the people that are here, these are the people who say we don’t believe in marriage between a man and a man and a woman and a woman,” Mr. Díaz said.

    During the event, which took on the air of an evangelical church service at times, a number of speakers offered prayers as audience members stood with their arms raised and their palms facing outward.

    One speaker, the Rev. Miguel A. Rivera, offered a prayer for the governor, who he said was not only “physically blind, but spiritually blind.”

    Some gay rights advocates appear to be growing impatient with senators who are considering backting the bill but have not yet publicly committed.

    At a gathering of gay rights advocates in Rochester on Saturday night, Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said he believed that there were some politicians who felt that voting for the bill would be the right thing to do, but that they would not, for fear of the political ramifications.

    “Because they’re either lazy or complacent or cowards, they do not act. And history will never forget them. They will not be forgiven,” Mr. Van Capelle said.

    Mr. Bloomberg, also expressed a sense of urgency on Sunday, and he encouraged people to press their senators to support the bill. “We’ve got to put the pressure on them and not take any double talk for an answer,” he said. “We won’t stop until we put a bill on the governor’s desk.”

    One person who was notably absent at the governor’s rally was Malcolm A. Smith, the majority leader of the Senate. His spokesman said he was in Albany. Mr. Smith was also absent during a news conference in Manhattan last month when Mr. Paterson introduced his bill, leading some gay rights advocates to question how committed he was.

    The issue is a delicate one for Mr. Smith, who has pledged to steer the bill through the Senate and lobby for votes, but also faces resistance from his church and some socially conservative constituents of his district in Queens.

    Democrats dismissed Mr. Smith’s absence.

    “I make nothing of it,” said Micah Z. Kellner, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper East Side. “All I need from Malcolm Smith is a yes vote. He doesn’t need to be the grand marshal of the gay pride parade.”