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NYers back Paterson’s gay nuptials plan: Poll

A majority of New Yorkers support Gov. David Paterson’s controversial proposal to legalize gay marriage in the state, a Siena College poll found Monday.

The poll showed residents of New York state favored the state Senate passing the bill by a 53−39 percent margin. But it appeared that the bill had little effect on Paterson’s declining popularity. His approval rating was at 27 percent, down from 29 percent last month, the poll of 682 residents showed.

The governor announced the legislation at a news conference last Thursday.

“Anyone who has ever faced intolerance of any kind knows the solemn importance of protecting the rights of all people,” he said in a statement. “That is why we stand together today to embrace civil rights for every New Yorker. We stand together today for marriage equality in the State of New York.”

The bill would amend the Domestic Relations Law to give same−sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil marriages, providing same−sex spouses with the same legal status and treatment as heterosexual couples in terms of property ownership, inheritance, healthcare and insurance coverage.

Such a bill passed the state Assembly in 2007, but was defeated in the Senate.

In order to make clear the distinction between marriage as recognized by the state and marriage as recognized by religious institutions, the bill would not compel any member of the clergy to officiate a same−sex marriage.

But Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) said he would not bring the bill to a vote unless he knew it had the support to pass.

“Sen. Smith has been and continues to be a strong supporter of marriage equality and he remains steadfast in his commitment to passing the marriage equality bill,” said Smith spokesman Austin Shafran.

“Civil rights can never be held back,” said Sen. Thomas Duane (D−Manhattan) the sponsor of the Senate bill. “[Paterson] knows that passing this bill will take hard work and bipartisan support and I know he will roll up his sleeves to get it done.”

Republicans have said they would oppose the bill.

Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose), the sole Queens Republican in the state Senate, did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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