Is the 32nd Senator Ready to Come Out of the Closet For Marriage Equality?

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It's been nearly a week since same-sex marriage supporters announced they have 31 out of 32 pledged votes toward passing the Marriage Equality Bill. However, Capital Tonight just tweeted that a 32nd, unidentified Senator has been confirmed. Others, like the NYCLU, are claiming there is a 32nd phantom vote, but no one is confirming who this Senator is.

A resolution to the standoff in Albany might be welcome on both sides, as pro and anti-marriage equality activists have been camped out in Albany for days now and tensions have been growing. Gay activists have been pushing that a perfect storm is brewing this week, with a vote on marriage equality imminent -- today being the 42nd anniversary of Judy Garland's death, President Obama coming to town to make a withdrawal from the GayTM tomorrow, the Pride Parade happening on Sunday, and the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots coming next week. (We can only imagine how awkward it will be for Obama to address a roomful of homosexual donors, possibly on the day the Senate finally votes, and have to explain to them why he was for gay marriage in 1996 and against it in 2011.)

Meanwhile, the anti same-sex marriage side, led by Rev. Senator Ruben Diaz (subject of this week's Voice feature story), has been leading the crowds on his side in religious songs and chants, alongside National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher. But they're not the only one's trotting out religious spokespeople.

"We live in a country that automatically grants 1,138 Federal rights and responsibilities to married couples. The denial of these rights to persons often living for decades in a loving, committed relationship is unloving, unfair, and unjust. Marriage equality is an affirmation of the sanctity of love, an affirmation of the sanctity of fairness, and an affirmation of the sanctity of justice," wrote the Rev. Freeman L. Palmer of the United Church of Christ, in a statement signed by multiple religious leaders supporting the Marriage Equality Bill.

According to multiple witnesses, the pro same-sex marriage advocates in Albany have been serenading for the Lord, too, and the dueling religious singing between the pro-and-anti sides are making the Capitol hallways sound like an old-time gospel sing-off.

Despite the fact that the Marriage Equality Bill is about civil, not religious, marriage, religion seems to be at the heart of the stalemate. The still undecided Senators are trying to get more religious exemptions caved out in the language of the bill. If they are successful, that bill would have to pass the Assembly yet again (for a fifth time) and be voted on in the Senate, where it hasn't come up for a vote since 2009.

sthrasher@villagevoice.com / @steven_thrasher


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