In a rare midyear address to a joint session of the Legislature, Paterson singled out his gay marriage proposal in a lengthy agenda for Tuesday’s extraordinary session that will mostly be devoted to addressing the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit.
“It is an issue that in many ways speaks to the very foundation of our democracy,” Paterson said of gay marriage. “I would like it addressed as immediately as possible, because justice delayed is justice denied. I am asking the members of the New York state Senate on both sides of the aisles to take up and pass the marriage equality legislation this week.”
New York’s Democratic-controlled State Assembly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in May, but the proposed legislation faces a tougher battle in the Senate, where the party has a slim majority.
Paterson, a Democrat who supports gay marriage, has urged the upper chamber to pass the bill and vowed to sign it into law.
In New York City, Christine Quinn, the openly gay council speaker, quickly weighed in by offering an impassioned plea for the state Senate to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
Paterson’s request raises the hopes of gay advocates who suffered a major defeat last week when Maine voters repealed that state’s gay marriage law.
New York is one of the most politically liberal states in the nation, but it is also home to large numbers of Catholics and African-Americans, many of whom oppose gay marriage.
Two recent polls showed a majority of New York voters in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but one other poll showed the public evenly split.
Five states currently allow gay marriage, granted through court rulings or votes in the state legislature. Those states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. New Hampshire will allow gay marriage starting in January.