More Backroom Scenes from New York's Same-Sex Marriage Vote

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The New York bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed by a razor-thin margin of 33 to 29 on Friday, and its passage required a last-minute flurry of deal-making and volte-faces. On Saturday, The New York Times' Michael Barbaro pieced together the unlikely "mix of forces" that helped gain momentum for the bill (notably, a rich cohort of Republican hedge funders who saw gay marriage as a "personal freedom" issue). Today, Barbaro chronicles the 11th hour back-room deals that prevented a pair of nervous Republicans from backing away from their support for the bill.

Sens. Mark Grisanti and Stephen Saland  Both Republicans told Gov. Andrew Cuomo they would support the bill but didn't want to be the decisive 32nd vote, so Cuomo told each of them that he would secure the support of another Republican who would then be considered the 32nd vote. Cuomo told Grisanti that Saland was the other vote, and Cuomo also turned to Saland, telling him that Grisanti was the other vote. Everything was in place until Grisanti got cold feet, worrying that the bill didn't have sufficient exemptions for religious organizations:

“Without those exemptions, I’m having a hard time supporting this measure,” he told the governor.

The governor summoned Mr. Saland and delivered the news: he might be the 32nd vote after all. Could he live with that?

Reluctantly, Mr. Cuomo said he would understand if Mr. Saland backed out of his commitment to vote yes.

Mr. Saland said he needed to think it over. After hours of anxious waiting, Mr. Cuomo heard back. If the governor needed him to be the 32nd vote, Mr. Saland told Mr. Cuomo, he would be the 32nd vote.

“I will be there for you,” Mr. Saland said.

But Grisanti ended up supporting the bill as well. What changed his mind? Barbaro points to a last-minute save from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was in no mood for politics. His mother, Charlotte, with whom he was extraordinarily close, had died the day before.

But gay marriage advocates wanted his help lobbying Mr. Grisanti, the Republican from Buffalo.

Would the mayor call him?

Mr. Bloomberg had already bolstered the marriage campaign over the previous few months with his personal fortune and political muscle. He saw no reason to stop now.

“If this is the time, I will do it,” the mayor said. He then placed the telephone call.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.