Skelos: GOP Would Bring Up Marriage

Speaking at a gathering of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York State (LCR), the leader of the Republican conference in New York’s State Senate said that a same-sex marriage bill would likely come up for a vote if the GOP retakes the majority in that body on November 2.

“I think our conference would say put it up, let it up,” Dean Skelos, the Senate minority leader, told Gay City News following an October 12 appearance at the LCR event. The Nassau County Republican said he was not promising a vote.

State Senate minority leader says his party open to another vote if it captures control in November

While marriage equality legislation has passed the State Assembly three times since 2007, it failed 38-to-24 in the Senate in late 2009, with every Republican senator and eight Democrats opposing the measure. The perception was that Republicans were required to vote with their party on the bill, but Skelos said that was not the case.

“From the very beginning, I said it would be a vote of conscience,” he stated.

Earlier, he told the gathering that senators would be free to vote as they saw fit on same-sex marriage should the legislation get a vote under a Republican majority.

“We are not going to stifle discussion, stifle votes,” Skelos told the crowd of roughly 40 people, who gave him a warm reception. “I believe people should be allowed to vote their conscience.”

Currently, Democrats hold a slim 32-to-30 majority in the Senate, with roughly 12 seats in play leading up to Election Day. Skelos predicted that his party would increase its strength to 34 or 35 seats, though he declined to say who the Democratic losers would be.

Gregory T. Angelo, chairman of LCR’s New York chapter, told Gay City News that he thought Republicans could take back the Senate.

“I think there is a very strong chance that the State Senate is going to move to Republican control,” Angelo said. “Certainly Democrats haven’t given voters any reason to reelect them.”

Angelo would not say if any Republican State Senate candidates or incumbents would become supporters of same-sex marriage, though the political group is talking to those candidates.

“That is ongoing right now,” Angelo said. “I think right now we might even have the votes for that.”

WIthin hours of Skelos making his comments on the prospects for another Senate vote on marriage equality, Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, issued a statment saying, “It is encouraging news that the democratic process will be allowed to move forward, but ultimately, we need to win. The Pride Agenda encourages both Democratic and Republican candidates to voice their support for LGBT issues like marriage equality before the voters go to the polls and make their decisions on November 2.”

Republicans are contending with a gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino, who has made a series of gaffes on the campaign trail. Most recently, he attacked the lesbian and gay community at October 10 appearances at two Brooklyn synagogues. After initially defending his comments on October 11, Paladino issued what can only be described as an abject apology to the lesbian and gay community on October 12. Skelos did not think that having Paladino at the top of the ballot would harm other Republican candidates.

“He’s apologized,” Skelos said. “I thought his remarks were intemperate, they were wrong…You move on from your mistakes, you learn from them.”

Speaking to the crowd, Skelos predicted that New York Republicans would pick up seats in the US House of Representatives, but he sounded less hopeful about state offices other than the Senate.

“We’re going to pick up some congressional seats,” he said. “I hope we win some statewide offices.”

Edward F. Cox, chairman of the New York State Republican Committee, told the crowd that Republicans would win “a very large majority in the House,” take back the US Senate, and win statewide offices in New York if candidates focused on “freedom,” “accountability,” “most of all fiscal responsibility,” and cutting taxes and government spending.

“That’s why we’re going to win statewide offices, if we stick to those issues,” Cox said. He also predicted that a Republican would take the White House in 2012.