A new Siena Research Institute poll shows that a small majority of New Yorkers are in favor of Governor David Paterson's proposed legislation to allow same-sex marriages, with 53% wanting the bill to be passed and 39% opposed.
As NEWS10 found out Monday, however, most local lawmakers do not feel the same way. Those leading the charge against the bill were mostly Republicans, such as State Senator Hugh Farley.
“I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Farley said, although adding, “I have nothing wrong with a civil union.”
Locals who are in favor were Democrats like Assembly Minority Leader Ron Canestrari, who voted “yes” two years ago on the same bill.
When asked if he thought people in his district felt the same way he did, Canestrari told NEWS10, “I don't know, but I do think it's changing. I don't believe negativity is as high now as it was five years ago.”
Lawmakers who favor the bill, like Canestari, include State Senator Neil Breslin and Assembly members Jack McEneny and Bob Reilly – all Democrats.
A staunch supporter of the bill – so much so as to sponsor it – Senator Breslin is also a Catholic. With the Catholic Conference strongly against such legislation, he was asked if his views caused a conflict of interest.
“I'm Catholic. We've differed on other issues, but what the Catholic Conference doesn't stress is that that does not obligate the Catholic Church to let anyone marry in their church. It just gives the right to marry.”
Along with Senator Farley, those who would vote “no” include State Senators Betsy Little and Roy McDonald, along with Assemblymen George Amedore, Peter Lopez and Tony Jordan – all Republicans.
Despite the Democratic support, most believe that the legislation may not even come to a vote this year.
Senator Farley explained his reasoning.
“Because I don't think there's enough votes, and the Majority Leader says he's not gonna' put it up until he's got the votes,” he said.
Farley also said that he does not believe the Siena poll is accurate. Just two weeks prior, a poll from Quinnipiac University showed just 41% of New Yorkers in favor of same sex marriage legalization.
Public sentiment has not changed the minds of many lawmakers, but Assemblyman Reilly says it has.
“Quite simply, I changed my mind,” he told NEWS10.
Reilly voted “no” on gay marriage two years ago, but now admits that public opinion has helped to change his mind about the issue.
“This was a situation, or issue, that 25 years ago was unthinkable,” Reilly said, “Today, it's more acceptable.”
Albany Assemblyman McEneny said he believes it's an issue of equal rights. McEneny not only voted for the bill when it passed the Assembly two years ago, but he is also a sponsor.
“When [I was] growing up, people who were gay stayed in the closet more,” McEneny said, “I think people realize today is in a more open society that there's an awful lot of people they can identify with that are perfectly normal who just happen to have a different sexual orientation.”
Governor Paterson put fellow Democrats on the spot by endorsing gay marriage without enough votes in the Senate to pass it. With opponents like the Catholic Conference trying to block the legislation, getting the support for it is critical.
Assemblyman Reilly showed his support, saying, “I am Catholic, but I believe that priests should be married, I believe that women should be priests and I believe that gay people should have the right to be married.”
Whereas some other local lawmakers stand, a spokesman for Assemblyman Tim Gordon (I – Bethlehem) would vote, although he did voted “no” last time out.
Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, who has been running for Congress, did not NEWS10's calls.