By Jeremy W. Peters
New York Times 02/08/2009
Mr. Smith said that while he and his fellow Democrats were committed to legalizing marriage between gay and lesbian couples, there were not yet enough votes in the State Senate to pass a bill. Although the State Assembly has passed such legislation, and Gov. David A. Paterson is a strong supporter of gay rights, the Senate has been an obstacle to allowing same sex marriages in New York.
Speaking in Manhattan at a fund-raiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, Mr. Smith said there was still much work to be done on the issue.
“I know one of your top priorities is the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples — something that I strongly support, something that I believe in and something that we will make happen together,” he told the crowd.
Then, as he received a burst of applause and cheers, he added, “Hold up.” He went on: “Although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage. And the question is not if; the question is when. So our work still needs to happen for it to happen this year. But I’m going to need your help, and I’m going to need your prayers.”
It did not come as a surprise that Senate Democrats were having difficulty gathering enough votes to pass the measure, but Mr. Smith’s comments were noteworthy for their bluntness. He had never said that he did not expect the bill to pass this year.
In an interview after his speech, Mr. Smith reiterated his position. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have the votes right now,” he said. “So I’m working hard to get the votes.” He declined to say how many votes he needed to assure passage.
Some members of the Legislature who attended the fund-raiser on Saturday said the cause was not yet lost for passage this year.
“I haven’t given up hope that it’s going to happen,” said Senator Thomas K. Duane, a Democrat who represents Greenwich Village. “We’re still counting votes and lobbying. I’d say the situation is very fluid.”