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Spitzer plans bill to make gay marriage legal in N.Y.

NEW YORK -- Governor Eliot Spitzer will introduce a bill in the coming weeks to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, a move that would propel New York to the forefront of one of the most contentious issues in politics.

Though he had long voiced support for same-sex marriage and had promised during his campaign last year to introduce legislation to legalize it, Spitzer did not mention the issue in his State of the State speech in January or in remarks a week ago outlining his priorities for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends June 21.

But his spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, said last week that Spitzer would not back away from his campaign pledge.

"The governor made a commitment to advance a program bill, and he will fulfill that commitment during this legislative session," Anderson said, using the term that refers to legislation introduced directly by the governor rather than by a state agency or by the Legislature.

Several states allow some form of civil union for same-sex couples, including Connecticut, where lawmakers are debating legislation that would take the further step of legalizing marriage for lesbian and gay male couples.

Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal.

Any legislation to make New York the second such state would face a steep climb in Albany, which Spitzer has acknowledged.

Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage has never made it to a floor vote in either the Assembly, which has a Democratic majority, or the Republican-controlled state Senate.