Old-time, backroom politics faced down hundreds of chanting protesters from each side of the highly charged gay marriage debate in New York today as the issue stalled again over whether religious groups could be protected from discrimination charges. After a three-hour conference behind closed doors, while groups from each side waited in a stifling hallway, Senate Republicans emerged without comment. A vote to even move the bill to the floor for final legislative approval was pushed to at least tomorrow as negotiations continue between Republican Senate leader Dean Skelos and Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
New York's vote is pivotal in the national question over same-sex marriage, an effort that largely stalled in the same room two years ago when the Senate voted it down. Skelos worries a federal judge could strike down flimsy religious protections in the current proposal if a religious group, such as the Knights of Columbus, is sued for discrimination for refusing to provide its hall for a gay wedding. "I think that's critically important," Skelos said. Other opponents were more dire: "If this passes, we will become Sodom and Gomorrah," says one 80-year-old.