New York governor drives same-sex marriage debate

Wed May 11, 2011 11:14am EDT
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By Dan Wiessner

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - In a push to legalize same-sex marriage, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a closed-door strategist, allowing gay rights groups to own the public campaign and also the loss that could result if legislation fails this year.

Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year in office, has vowed to make same-sex marriage a priority in the coming final weeks of the legislative session.

The state-by-state battle over gay marriage has become one of the most contentious U.S. social issues ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Colombia allow same-sex marriage, and 10 states allow civil unions.

Needing support from Republican senators on the gay marriage issue, Cuomo has political capital to spend with them after closing a $10 billion budget gap without raising taxes.

The issue may also help Cuomo solidify his liberal base after he alienated many with an austere budget that cut spending on education, healthcare and social programs. He also angered progressives by opposing the extension of an income tax surcharge on the state's wealthiest residents.

Cuomo has stopped short of making himself the public face of the campaign, instead leaving on-the-ground organizing to groups that have lobbied for marriage equality for years.

He pulled those disparate groups together in closed-door sessions at the Capitol, and they came out forming an umbrella group called New Yorkers United for Marriage.   Continued...

<p>A same-sex couple walk a hallway in City Hall after their wedding ceremony in San Francisco, November 3, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>