Deals on issues may allow New York gay nuptials vote
ALBANY, New York
ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - Legislative leaders in New York state on Tuesday announced tentative deals to control rent for New York City apartments and cap property taxes, possibly clearing the way for a vote to legalize same sex marriage.
The same-sex marriage bill, which would make New York the sixth and largest state to allow gay nuptials, needs only one more Senate vote to pass.
Undecided senators have cited concerns over exemptions for religious groups and individuals as the sticking point in negotiations.
A vote on the measure in the Senate, which was originally expected last week, had been delayed as legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo wrangled over the other issues.
Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers favor expanded rent laws, while the Senate's Republican majority is seeking a simple extension. Leaders on Tuesday did not reveal details of the tentative agreement.
Emerging from a closed-door meeting with Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said a "framework" agreement had been reached on the rent laws and tax cap, but they refused to offer details or set a date for a Senate vote on same-sex marriage, which passed the Assembly last week.
Skelos said he expected the legislature to break for a summer recess Wednesday.
The legislative session was scheduled to end on Monday, but lawmakers stayed at the Capitol along with hundreds of protesters on both sides of the marriage debate.
"We have not finalized the language in terms of religious protections," Skelos said of the marriage bill.
Silver also said amendments to strengthen religious protections were still under discussion.
Gay-rights advocates remained optimistic that same-sex marriage would be voted on this week, noting that its having become a key bargaining chip was a sign that it had a good chance of passing.
"People are very hopeful; there are a lot of positive signs," said Dan Weiller, a spokesman for Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's largest gay-rights group.
While only one vote is needed to pass the measure, most political analysts believe it needs the support of an additional two or three lawmakers to shield any single senator from being seen as the deciding vote.
A group of three undecided senators met privately with Cuomo several times this week.