'Gang of Three' split over same-sex marriage

People who are counting heads in the New York State Senate say that a vote to legalize same-sex marriage will be very close -- if the bill makes it to the floor at all. The issue was nearly considered last spring, just before the Senate Republican coup knocked all agendas off the table. Now, advocates led by the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) are prepping for a Nov. 10 special session of the legislature to try again. As I've said before, the vote could fill an important political need for Gov. David Paterson and anyone who wants to see him step aside in 2010, such as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

ESPA won't say who among the state senators it is counting on its side. But two sources say that troubled Sen. Hiram Monserrate's name is in ESPA's "yes" column.

Monserrate -- a member of the senate's so-called "Gang of Three" rogue members -- hasn't said much publicly since a Queens judge concluded he was guilty of a violent misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend, and political folks began calling for his ouster. One of the people who rushed to Monserrate's rescue is Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a minister who is practically a single-issue voter on the subject of same-sex marriage. He based his support for former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith on a reported promise Smith made to block a marriage bill from coming to the senate floor.

The recent dynamics would appear to at least shift Monserrate's vote to the questionable column. Joshua Meltzer, an ESPA spokesman, says that although he can't talk about the senator's position, he would point to Sen. Pedro Espada as another 'Gang' member who has gone his own way to co-sponsor the marriage bill in the senate.

But I'm predicting that Monserrate will vote with Diaz in the end. With a special senate committee considering his fate, Monserrate is going to need every friend he can get on the inside.