Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

Quinn 'Can't Bulls@#*' On Gay Marriage
May 19, 2009

Council Speaker Christine Quinn made a quick trip to Albany this morning to lobby senators on an issue that is very personal for her: The legalization of gay marriage.

Quinn, who is both the first lesbian and the first woman to hold the speakership, started out with a sit-down with Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and came away feeling "very pleased," she said.

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"He's working very hard to get the votes, and he is focused on getting the votes," Quinn said during a brief interview in the Capitol Cafe before heading back to the city for a Democratic caucus this afternoon on the city budget.

"It was a very positive meeting," she continued. "I was very pleased. I wouldn't say surprised. But he's clearly engaged. He has a command of the votes and the numbers...I'm very optimistic about this today. I can't bulls@#* about this one. I think there are Republican votes that are gettable; I think the majority leader knows that, and I think we're in striking distance."

I wasn't aware that Smith, who has said he personally supports marriage but won't let Gov. David Paterson's bill passed by the Assembly last week come to the floor in his house until it has the 32 votes it needs to pass, was counting heads.

There has been speculation as to how many votes Smith and marriage advocates lack, with the number floating anywhere from the rather optimistic (four) to the seemingly unreachable (six or more). When I asked Quinn for an update, she referred me to Smith's office.

After meeting with Smith, Quinn tackled some of the Democratic "nos" - Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Sen. George Onorato and Sen. Dave Valesky - before rounding up her lobbying marathon with a chat with one of her former colleagues, Sen. Andy Lanza, a Republican who she says is "undecided" on marriage.

Quinn said her encounters today were "some of the most personal conversations I have ever had on any lobbying content." She said she feels she has a unique ability to understand people who feel letting same-sex couples marry runs counter to their religious beliefs.

"Today I'm the big lesbian speaker of the City Council, but I was raised a Catholic; I went to Catholic school for twelve years," Quinn said. "I understand what it's like to struggle with this."

Quinn said she came up to Albany on her own volition, but she has been talking with the Empire State Pride Agenda and her former boss, Sen. Tom Duane, who is carrying the marriage bill, about how she might be able to help advance the measure.

The speaker said she hopes to return to the Capitol next week, and was encouraged by the reception she received today, although it doesn't appear she managed to move any votes.

"Everyone was quite cordial and lovely and very respectful," she said. "Whatever ends up happening, and I believe that we are going to pass this, I was extremely impressed with the serious nature and thoughtful way people are looking at this issue. No one I met with today was cavalier, and no one saw this as trivial."

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