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Is Gay Marriage Coming or Going in NY State?

The news channel NY1 today conducted a poll of New York’s 62 state senators on pending legislation to legalize gay marriage in the Empire State, which was approved by the State Assembly but faces longer odds in the more conservative Senate.

Six senators who we had previously classified as undecided told NY1 they were planning to vote no. They are:

Kenneth LaValle, R-Long Island (Port Jefferson)
John J. Flanagan, R-Long Island (East Northport)
Charles Fuschillo, R-Long Island (Merrick)
Carl Kruger, D-NYC (Brooklyn)
Betty Little, R-Upstate (Queensbury)
Catharine Young, R-Upstate (Olean)

The loss of the three Long Island Republicans — LaValle, Flanagan and Fuschillo — is a pretty big blow to gay marriage’s chances, as is that of Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat. Little and Young were thought to be longshots for yea votes and it is less surprising that they have now come out against gay marriage explicitly.

But, there is some good news for advocates of gay marriage too. Three Republicans who we had previously classified as no votes now tell NY1 they’re undecided:

Thomas Morahan, R-Westchester (Clarkstown)
John Bonacic, R-Westchester (Mount Hope)
Roy McDonald, R-Upstate (Wilton)

That makes the count 20 yea votes and 28 nay votes, with 14 senators undecided. Gay marriage will require 12 of the 14 undecided votes to pass.

If this were an exercise in flipping coins — and you had to come up with heads at least 12 times in 14 tosses to pass gay marriage, its odds of passing would be extremely long: about 150-to-1 against. However, that is of course not the way that politics works. People’s votes are not independent from one another — instead, legislators they may look to leadership or their colleagues to determine their own vote. Moreover, it may not be safe to assume that those who claim to be undecided on gay marriage are 50:50 shots to vote for it. A senator like Bonacic, who cp-sponsored a 2006 bill to ban gay marriage, might be reluctant to come out publicly in favor of the bill until the last possible moment. On the other hand, one wonders what some of the Democrats who claim to be on the fence, particularly those who hail from areas where most of their constituents approve of gay marriage, are waiting for.

Nevertheless, Democratic senator Thomas Duane on Monday told the Daily News that Democrats have the 32 votes they need; Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was more reserved in his assessment.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.