Monday, May 4, 2009

Gay marriage battle becomes all-out war as gays press state officials

Gay marriage battle becomes all-out war as gays press state officials

Gay-marriage proponents are stepping up their fight to get same-sex nuptials legalized in New York with the help of more than $100,000 worth of polling - and the support of Mayor Bloomberg.

"Anybody who thinks we're not serious about winning this in 2009 better throw cold water on themselves and wake up," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.

"We are absolutely serious."

Over the past several months, the group commissioned polls from Boston-based Kiley & Co. in the districts of at least 10 GOP state senators.

The group plans to use the results to convince reluctant state lawmakers that voting "yes" on gay marriage is not political suicide.

The polling from four Long Island districts obtained by the Daily News shows voters support granting the right to marry to same-sex couples, 52-42%.

Support is strongest among women, voters younger than 30 and independents - a key constituency that can make or break tight races.

Long Island is expected to again be a battleground in the 2010 fight for control of the state Senate, in which Republicans will try to regain the majority and Democrats hope to grow their slim, two-seat grip on the chamber.

The four Republican Long Island senators targeted in the agenda's polls were: Ken LaValle, Kemp Hannon, Charles Fuschillo and John Flanagan.

Six Democratic senators have said they won't vote for the gay marriage bill, so advocates are looking to the Republicans to make up the difference.

Despite Gov. Paterson's call for an up-or-down vote on the marriage bill he introduced, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) says he won't let it onto the floor until he's sure it has at least the 32 votes necessary to pass.

Gay marriage advocates spent more than $1 million on the 2008 elections in New York.

Much of that went to flip the Senate into Democratic hands and to protect four Assembly Republicans who voted "yes" on a marriage bill that passed, 85 to 61, in June 2007.

Advocates are making it clear there will be consequences in 2010 if gay marriage doesn't pass this year, and are promising to back Republicans who side with them in this fight.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg, who is trying to woo gay voters as he seeks a third term, issued a memo in support of Paterson's bill and urged its "earliest possible favorable consideration" by the Legislature.

In addition, two principals at a consulting firm that counts Bloomberg as one of its biggest clients, Knickerbocker SKD, have agreed to work pro bono to produce a TV ad for the the agenda's marriage campaign.

Josh Isay and Jennifer Cunningham will begin work on the ad this week, Cunningham confirmed.

The mayor's memo argued that granting marriage rights to all couples regardless of their sexual orientation "strengthens New York's families and advances the fundamental ideal of equal treatment under the law."

The memo was distributed last week to members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, who voted to move Paterson's bill onto the floor.

The bill was supposed to come up for a vote in the Assembly this week, but has been delayed by ongoing MTA stalemate and the funeral today of the late Sen. John Marchi.

The bill is likely be brought to the floor of the Assembly next week, sources said. It is expected to pass in the Assembly again.

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