Power shift gives gay marriage advocates hope

? Despite their elation at President-elect Barack Obama?s victory last Tuesday, members of In the Life Ministries Church in the Bronx say Nov. 4 was

THE BRONX - ? Despite their elation at President-elect Barack Obama?s victory last Tuesday, members of In the Life Ministries Church in the Bronx say Nov. 4 was a bittersweet day because voters passed bans on same-sex marriage in California, Arizona and Florida.

In the Life Ministries Church is the only openly gay house of worship in the Bronx and its members were deeply saddened by the exclusion of their homosexual peers in other states. Pastor James Dusenbury says the word marriage is much less important than the rights that come along with it.

?It felt like it was a victory in one hand and a defeat in another,? Dusenbury says.

But Tuesday's election may have opened the door for same-sex marriage in New York.

Democrats won a narrow majority in New York's Senate, where Republicans have buried legislation to start issuing marriage licenses regardless of gender. A Senate power shift was not a sure thing because four Democrats were considering an alliance with the GOP, which could swing the 32-30 majority back to Republicans.

"The only chance we had for meaningful debate or consideration of these issues in the state Senate was with a new Senate leadership," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's largest gay rights advocacy group. He added that no bills have passed in New York without some votes from members of both parties.

One of the four Democratic senators who met a day after the election with GOP leaders was Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, who opposes legalizing gay marriage.

Though Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens, leader of the Senate's Democratic Caucus, supports gay marriage, he said his conference's first priority is the state's fiscal crisis, followed by job creation upstate.

The Democrat-controlled state Assembly in 2007 passed legislation to legalize gay marriage 85-61, a measure backed by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

In May, Gov. David Paterson, also a Democrat, issued a directive requiring state agencies to immediately recognize as valid in New York gay marriages performed legally elsewhere, such as Canada, Massachusetts and, for the past several months, California.

Paterson has said that if the Assembly and Senate pass legislation to legalize gay marriage that he will sign it.

AP wires contributed to this report.

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