Legalizing gay marriage in New York came within two votes of those needed for passage Monday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo rallied most Democrats and a local Republican lawmaker added his voice to the chorus supporting the measure.
Republican state Sen. James Alesi of Perinton announced his intention to support a gay marriage bill to be introduced in the last five days of the legislative session. With 29 of 30 Democrats in the state Senate in favor of the bill, that brings the estimated support to 30 votes in the 62-seat chamber, two votes shy of passage.
“At this point I am voting from the heart," said Alesi. "This is a matter of equality for people, our sons and daughters, and if we are going to live in a country that’s based on freedom and equality, that freedom and equality has to exist for everyone."
The Democrat-led Assembly and the Democratic governor already strongly support the measure, which was defeated in 2009.
Alesi, however, said he knew of no Republican colleagues who will join him and received no guarantee the measure will pass.
Republican senators said they see no change in votes for the measure, which is expected to be discussed in closed-door session today or Wednesday.
Alesi’s position is change from two years ago, when a gay marriage bill was narrowly defeated.
“Two years ago, I voted against a marriage equality bill, and it was a very anguishing vote for me,” Alesi said, adding that he has since apologized to advocates for his vote.
“I believe that if you live in America and you expect equality and freedom for yourself that you should extend it to other people.”
Alesi won his eighth term to the state Senate in November, capturing 53 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Mary Wilmot in one of the region’s more hotly contested races.
His 55th District includes the Monroe County towns of Chili, East Rochester, Henrietta, Irondequoit, Mendon, Penfield, Perinton, Pittsford, Riga, Rush, Wheatland and parts of the city of Rochester.
Alesi still hasn’t seen the gay marriage bill, but said he will support it as long as it, “comes out in a way that doesn’t force churches to do something that the churches don’t want to do.”
The bill is expected to pass the Democratic-led Assembly easily, as similar measures have in past years.
The bill would then have to be introduced in the Republican-led Senate and wend its way through committee, with negotiation of any changes, in time for a vote by June 20, the scheduled end of session.
— Messenger Post Media contributed to this story