ALBANY, N.Y. — The day after sitting in a front pew at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s installation, New York Gov. David Paterson introduced a same-sex “marriage” bill.

The bill is similar to the one rejected by the Republican-controlled state Senate that was pushed in 2007 by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace last year after his affair with a prostitute was exposed. But with the Senate now in the hands of fellow Democrats, Paterson is hoping for success.

If the legislation is successful, New York would join other states where same-sex “marriage” has been ratified. The latest is Connecticut, whose legislature codified that state’s 2008 Supreme Court blessing on the practice. Republican Gov. Jodi Rell is expected to sign the bill.

In the New York action, Paterson, who is black, compared the push for same-sex “marriage” to the 19th-century fight against slavery and called the homosexual “marriage” bill “landmark civil rights legislation” that would enshrine a “fundamental civil right of marriage.”

In public interviews the morning before his installation, Archbishop Dolan declined to address specifically the impending same-sex bill, though he did indicate that the U.S. bishops had spoken clearly on the issue and he supported their stance.

In response to Paterson’s action, the New York State Catholic Conference reissued a June 2008 statement by the bishops of the state’s eight dioceses. The document says that the state “should not and must not” alter the definition of marriage, since biology, sociology, history and religion all point to the fact that marriage is a relationship solely between one man and one woman and that society and children benefit from the exclusive nature of this bond.

The bishops stressed that their opposition to same-sex “marriage” should not be construed as rejection of homosexual persons.

Speaking for the Catholic Conference, Dennis Poust said that once Archbishop Dolan becomes more familiar with the state’s laws and the past work of the New York bishops he could be expected to speak out publicly on the issue of same-sex “marriage.”

An ardent political opponent of the bill, Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-South Bronx, did not accept Paterson’s civil rights comparison. In a phone interview, he accused the governor of grandstanding to boost his sagging poll numbers, even though the bill has little chance of passing.

“What the governor is trying to do is to improve his poor numbers and to rally up the homosexual community to support his re-election bid,” Diaz said.

He claimed that at least five Democratic senators oppose the bill with him. Proponents of the bill “will need six or seven Republicans to go over to their side, and right now they will not get even one,” Diaz said. “This bill will not pass.”

There are 30 Democrats in the state Senate, where 32 votes are needed to pass the bill, which would then require the governor’s signature to become law. Senate majority leader Malcolm Smith of Queens, who supports the bill, has said in press statements that he will not move it to the floor until he is sure of enough votes for passage.

Although generally considered a liberal “blue” state, New York has not joined its Northeast companions Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont in implementing homosexual “marriage.” New York’s highest court ruled in 2006 that the state constitution does not compel the recognition of same-sex “marriage” and that the state has a valid interest in protecting marriage between a man and a woman.

New York does have a Domestic Relations Law covering same-sex couples that confers the status of marriage, and last year Gov. Paterson bypassed the courts and legislature, issuing an executive order instructing all state agencies to recognize the validity of same-sex “marriages” contracted in other states — an order that has spawned a number of lawsuits.

“Usually it’s the courts that take the lead in imposing same-sex ‘marriage’ on the electorate, which recently happened in Connecticut and Iowa,” Poust said. “So we have been fortunate that our Court of Appeals did the right thing and that those pushing same-sex ‘marriage’ have to go through the democratically elected legislature.”

A few days after Paterson introduced the bill, a poll released by upstate Siena College showed a surprising 53% to 39% margin in favor of homosexual “marriage” among New York state residents surveyed; Democrats were 59% in support, compared to 31% of Republicans. A similar Siena poll last year showed a 46% to 40% nod to homosexual “marriage,” and a Quinnipiac University poll in early April showed only 41% of New Yorkers favoring same-sex “marriage.”

Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage, which led a successful campaign for Proposition 8 that overturned a court ruling for homosexual “marriage” in California, said the Siena poll is wrong.

The poll, she said, “is just not believable — they also had polls in California showing we’d lose by 10 points” on Proposition 8.

She said the Siena poll question is “long and confusing, and the results show very few black New Yorkers opposing gay ‘marriage,’” whereas nationally black voters express opposition to homosexual “marriage.”

Stephen Vincent writes from

Wallingford, Connecticut.