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After a long week of discussions and no resolution, gay marriage vote postponed

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A vote in the State Senate on gay marriage is not expected until sometime this week, as Republicans, who hold the majority in that house, wrangle with concerns over greater protections for religious organizations.

As Karen DeWitt reports, last week was one of ups and downs for both supporters and opponents of same sex marriage.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

As the week began, momentum was growing for Governor Andrew Cuomo's bid to pass a same sex marriage bill in the Senate. Should the bill come to the floor, 29 of the 30 Democrats in the Senate pledged to vote yes.

Cuomo urged Republican senators, who are in the majority in that house, to stand with them. 

“Represent the people, not the party leaders. Vote your conscience, not you fears,” said Cuomo, who also said 60 percent of New Yorkers support gay marriage.

After a meeting with Cuomo, previously undecided Republican Senator James Alesi announced that he was in the yes column. “I would support the bill,” Alesi said.

The developments spurred Governor Cuomo to release a bill, something he had vowed he would not do until there were enough votes to pass it. The bill was two votes short until the next day when GOP Senator Roy McDonald said he’d changed his mind and would approve same sex marriage as well.The Senate was then split 31 to 31.

“I’m trying to be a compassionate person and do the right thing,” McDonald said. “I think it was the appropriate thing to do.”

Republican leader Dean Skelos predicted the bill could come to the Senate floor as early as Friday but then things came to a halt. It seemed no one wanted to step forward to become the pivotal 32nd vote and endure all of the pressures that would come with that.

The GOP held a four-hour, closed-door conference but Senator Skelos said afterward there was no decision on what to do next.

“The discussions are going to continue,” Skelos said. “The issue has not been resolved.”

Republican Senators began examining Cuomo’s bill, and some said they had concerns that there were not strong enough exemptions for religious organizations, and some of the charitable services that they provide. Senator Greg Ball said he wants more guarantees.

“Nobody wants to be in a position where we’re shutting down Catholic adoption agencies,” said Ball. “And the governor has got to, in my opinion, pay real attention to that.”

As the week wound down, Governor Cuomo met privately in his office with Republican Senators to talk about their concerns, he also met with those he thought might be wavering on the issue.

The Republicans held another lengthy closed door session, where Catholic priests expressed their concerns with the measure, but no decision was reached.  Senator Skelos said concerns continued about “unintended consequences” of some of the religious “clauses, carve outs, protections” in the bill.

A spokesman for the governor, Josh Vlasto said he had “no comment," and that talks are continuing.

Senator Skelos said Governor Cuomo has been very “gracious” and listened to their concerns, and they hope to pick it all up again on Monday.

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