Gay marriage debate buzzing behind the scenes

Will a gay marriage vote actually take place in the topsy-turvy NYS Senate?

Gov. Paterson now says he’ll force senators to vote before they break for summer. He said yesterday that he’s calling the Senate into a special session after the nuttiness of recent weeks.

In a related story, Ossining’s Maggie Gallagher (that’s her), a leading foe of gay marriage in NYS, is being accused of running a front organization for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage, which is spending big money on advertising and lobbying to defeat gay marriage in the NYS Senate. The group is also threatening to mount primaries against GOP senators who vote for gay marriage.

But as my colleague Keith Eddings reports, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating complaints that Gallagher’s group is a “front” for the Mormon church, which of course helped organize support for California’s Proposition 8. The investigation has to do with whether the church failed to report millions of dollars in “nonmonetary contributions” to Gallagher’s group.

Gallagher (who is Catholic) says her group is independent of any religious denomination: “It’s not true. I founded NOM. I’d be happy to work with Mormons, but NOM was not started at the suggestion of Salt Lake.”

Eddings notes that Kim Farah, an oft-quoted spokeswoman for the LDS, did not respond to a question about whether the Mormon church has been working to stop gay marriage in New York and elsewhere.

Studying the Mormon role in the marriage debate

We’ve heard about the strong role that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had in promoting California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between man and woman (and not man and man or woman and woman).

Now the Wash Post writes that gay marriage advocates around the country are studying the Mormon Church’s involvement — both out of respect for the church’s commitment and to defeat the church down the road.

The article notes:

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Mormon officials have tried to stay out of the controversy that followed the California vote, when the church’s prominent role in the marriage fight became clear. A spokeswoman in Salt Lake City declined to say whether the church is involved in debates going on in states such as New Jersey and New York, except to say that leaders remain intent on preserving the “divine institution” of marriage between man and woman. The faith holds that traditional marriage “transcends this world” and is necessary for “the fullness of joy in the next life.”

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By the way, the Rev. Joe Agne, pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains, is being honored as “Person of the Year” by the Westchester County LGBT Advisory Board.

Agne recently invited the Loft, Westchester’s main gay and lesbian community center/advocacy group, to move its HQ to Memorial United’s church building.