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Gay marriage battle rages as N.Y. senators debate taxes and rent

By David Ariosto, CNN
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Senator could decide gay marriage in NY
  • Senate leader says lawmakers reach "framework for ... agreement" on rent, tax issues
  • Republicans have concerns over "unintended consequences" of same-sex marriage bill
  • Backers need one more GOP Senate vote for same-sex bill to pass

New York (CNN) -- A day after state lawmakers were due to head home, a pair of controversial issues seem to stubbornly postpone their summer recess.

The first is something that many call a quintessential New York battle: Whether to enact the first statewide cap on property taxes. The cap is linked to the extension of rent control laws that apply to roughly 1 million apartments, most of them in New York City.

The second is the subject of national debate: Should New York become the sixth state in the union to adopt same-sex marriage laws?

Monday was technically the last official day of the legislative session, but the votes are still pending.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said lawmakers had reached a "framework for an agreement" on the rent and tax issues, but acknowledged that same-same sex marriage was not a part of those deliberations.

The Senate has struggled to bring to the floor a bill that would legalize the unions, but separate talks continued Tuesday, according to a spokesman for Skelos.

A vote on the measure, which the state Assembly passed Wednesday night, has been stalled in part by Republican concerns over protections for religious institutions against the potential for litigation in the wake of the proposed law.

Republicans, led by Skelos, have expressed concerns over the "unintended consequences" of a bill that redefines the legal parameters of marriage.

On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators filled the state Capitol in Albany in anticipation of the vote, chanting slogans and wielding signs for and against the controversial measure.

At last public count, 31 senators, including two Republicans, were in favor of the bill. Its backers need one more GOP member to vote in favor for it to pass.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the bill, says it would grant same-sex couples equal rights to marry "as well as hundreds of rights, benefits and protections that are currently limited to married couples of the opposite sex."

The first-term governor has lobbied opposition and undecided senators in an effort to secure the lone vote needed for the bill's passage.

Meanwhile, Greg Ball -- one of several Republican senators who are considered on the fence over the pending vote -- reiterated his party's concerns about the legislation's potential impact on religious institutions.

"I'm not going to vote for a bill where Catholic adoption agencies or religious organizations are shut down or are opened up to lawsuits," he said Friday, noting that adoption agencies were closed after same-sex marriage laws were adopted in other states. He declined to elaborate.

Democrat Tom Duane, an openly gay member of the state Senate, countered Friday that there are "already laws on the books in New York state which protect people of faith."

"Marriage is a civil right. People get married, and it is recognized in government," he said. "We're talking about the government recognizing same-sex equality."

But the passage of same-sex marriage laws faces a daunting history in the New York state legislature.

The Senate rejected a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009 and has blocked the last three attempts by the state's lower house to get the proposed legislation signed into law.

Although New York currently does not grant same-sex marriages, a 2008 appellate court ruling upheld the right of couples to have their same-sex marriages recognized if they are performed elsewhere.

The current measure would amend the state's Domestic Relations Law to say, among other changes, that "no application for a marriage license shall be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same or a different sex."

Five states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire -- and the District of Columbia currently grant same-sex marriage licenses.

CNN's Dana Garrett contributed to this report.