Thirty-three state senators have publicly declared they will support legalizing same-sex marriage, all but assuring passage of the measure which will make New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples can wed.
The Senate took up the measure just before 10 p.m., and the Senate galleries were packed with gay couples in support of the bill and religious opponents of it.
Senator Stephen M. Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican, became the critical 32nd vote, telling his colleagues in an emotional address that he believed the issue came down to a question of equality.
“I know my vote is a vote of conscience,” he told a hushed chamber. “I am at peace with my vote. It was a struggle. It was an extraordinary deliberation.”
Mark J. Grisanti, a freshman Republican whose Buffalo district is overwhelmingly Democratic and who had also been publicly undecided, joined Mr. Saland in saying he would vote for the bill.
The measure was to be the final act of this year’s legislative session, and lawmakers earlier Friday barreled through a variety of votes on university tuition, rent stabilization, and property taxes.
“After many hours of deliberation and discussion over the past several weeks among the members, it has been decided that same-sex marriage legislation will be brought to the full Senate for an up or down vote,” the majority leader, Senator Dean G. Skelos of Long Island, said in a statement. “As I have said many times, this is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate.”
Mr. Skelos, whose caucus had been criticized over the last week for not scheduling a Senate vote on the same-sex marriage measure, said in an interview, “The days of just bottling up things, and using these as excuses not to have votes — as far as I’m concerned as leader, it’s over with.”
The marriage measure, which was proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and approved by the state Assembly, has been publicly endorsed by 31 of the 62 senators — leaving the measure one vote shy of the votes needed for passage in the Senate. The announced supporters include 29 of the 30 Senate Democrats and 2 of the 32 Senate Republicans. Supporters and opponents alike said that anything could happen when the Senate takes its vote.”