Vote on New York gay marriage may not be until mid-week

ALBANY, New York Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:24pm EDT

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ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - Same-sex marriage is one vote away from approval in the state of New York, but the Senate's Republican majority on Monday once again delayed a vote on the controversial measure, citing concerns over exemptions for religious organizations.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged from a closed-door meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo and said amendments to the current proposal were being drafted.

"We're making sure the religious protections are solid and that they will stand," Skelos said.

Monday was supposed to be the last day of the legislative session, but leaders confirmed they would stay at the Capitol at least through Wednesday to work out deals on the marriage bill, as well as an extension of rent control laws for New York City and a cap on property tax increases.

Cuomo, a Democrat who has made gay marriage a top priority, introduced the bill, which is currently one vote shy of passage in the state Senate. The state Assembly approved the bill last week.

Advocates who cheered the marriage bill at the statehouse on Monday vowed to hold rallies until the bill passes, calling for another gathering on Tuesday.

"Together we will make sure that all New Yorkers will soon be able to marry the person they love," Stefan Friedman, spokesman for New Yorkers United for Marriage, said in a statement.

"We are heartened that there continues to be respectful and productive dialogue on the issue of marriage equality and believe we are getting close to a vote on the Governor's marriage bill."

But a large number of gay marriage opponents converged on the Capitol as well, calling for lawmakers to reject the proposal. Religious officials have said that allowing same-sex marriage will undermine the stability of the family unit.

If the bill is passed, it would make New York the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, after Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont. It would also be the most populous state to allow same sex marriage. Four states have civil unions. Gay marriage is specifically banned in 39 states.

The debate in New York has made same-sex marriage a key national issue ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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