ALBANY, New York - Hundreds of raucous demonstrators on both sides of the divisive gay-marriage debate jammed the usually sedate halls of New York state's Capitol on Monday as lawmakers considered whether to schedule a decisive vote on the issue.
New York's vote is seen as pivotal in the national question over same-sex marriage, an effort that largely stalled in the same room two years ago when the Senate voted it down. Since then, efforts have failed in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland. Advocates hope a "yes" vote in the country's third most-populous state _ home the largest U.S. city _ jumpstarts the effort.
Same-sex couples can legally marry in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Senate Republicans, who control the chamber, were scheduled to meet behind closed doors Monday. They could call for a floor vote Monday, or it could still be a day or two away.
The state's other legislative chamber, the Assembly, has already passed the measure. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will sign it.
On Monday, groups led by clergy opposed to same-sex marriage sang hymns such as "Victory is Mine" and prayed in small circles while pro-same-sex marriage advocates countered with "God Bless America" and lined the halls and parlor outside the Senate chamber.
State troopers were called to the Senate chamber floor as the two groups started to merge and argue with each other, but there were no immediate threats of escalation, only debate. There were no threats and senators moved without being bothered from the elevators to their conference room on the Capitol's stately and normally staid third floor.
"This is not about religion, this is about civil rights," Sharon Baum of New York City said.
She was soon confronted by a woman opposed to gay marriage.
"If this passes, we will become Sodom and Gomorrah," said 80-year-old Ginny Winn, of Delmar in Albany County.
Protesters tried to strike a respectful tone. Most members of each side made a point to say they didn't hate their counterpart.
"God says 'No'!" chanted one side, as pro-gay marriage advocates, led by their own clergy, intoned, "God is love!"