By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — An historic bill that would legalize gay marriage will have to wait another day, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters Monday after hours of back-room negotiations and heated protest.
Skelos spokesman Mark Hansen confirmed the vote would not make it to the floor Monday, but legislators are now expected to remain in Albany through at least the beginning of week, leaving both sides in the debate digging in their heels for a lengthy fight.
Protesters from both sides of the debate descended on the steps of the capitol Monday to pressure legislators.
"God says No!" opposition protesters chanted Monday, reporters tweeted from Albany, where hundreds, including many clergy members, butted heads.
"2, 4, 6, 8: separate the church & state," supporters countered.
"I’m freaking out," said Jake Goodman, a founding member of Queer Rising, which has been advocating for the legislation, as hope faded that the measure would come to vote Monday.
"We cant wait anymore for inequality... We care so deeply about this," he said.
Melissa Kleckner, who lives in New Jersey, traveled up to Albany with her 9-year-old daughter to demonstrate along with hundreds of others in favor of the bill.
She described the scene at the capitol as "chaos" and said her daughter had been verbally harassed twice, but said she wasn't leaving any time soon.
Voices could be heard shouting from inside the Senate chambers throughout the day as protesters clashed.
In addition to the marriage bill, the Senate also bought itself more time to hammer out a deal on rent regulations, passing another temporary measure that extends current regulations for 24 more hours. A previous temporary extension passed Friday had been set to expire at midnight tonight.
The regulations already lapsed once last week, when many Democrats, voted 'no' in an effort to ramp up pressure to pass tougher rent regulations, which Republicans oppose.
For weeks, proponents of the marriage bill, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have been lobbying to have it heard, but the bill has faced sharp resistance from some Republican lawmakers who have complained the law might jeopardize the rights of religious institutions.
The bill, which passed the Assembly by a vote of 80-63 last Wednesday, would grant all couples the same legal rights, regardless of sex. Religious organizations would still be allowed to define marriage as they wish, under the bill introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Gay rights advocates ramped up their demonstrations in support of the bill over the weekend, with roughly 300 demonstrators gathering in Union Square for a "Last Day of Marriage Inequality" action on Sunday, a rally at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park and a "kiss-in" for marriage equality at Herald Square on Saturday.