ALBANY, N.Y. -- Groups for and against same-sex marriage will work overtime this weekend with a potential showdown in the senate scheduled for Monday.
For the third-straight day, Senate Republicans held a lengthy, private conference Friday on Governor Andrew Cuomo's bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
After three hours behind closed doors, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos emerged to say some of his caucus continues to have concerns about language in the bill protecting religious institutions and non-profits from lawsuits. The GOP wants stronger protections.
As it stands, the current bill remains a single vote shy of having enough to pass in the Senate, though the Republicans who control the chamber haven't committed to bringing it to the floor for a vote.
"There is a concern right now as to the unintended consequences of some of the religious carve outs, protections, and we're reviewing that," Skelos said.
Three Senate Republicans met with Cuomo late Thursday to discuss those concerns. On Friday, Cuomo indicated to reporters that he's open to changing the bill.
"The bill is balancing two needs; we want to protect marriage equality, we also want to protect religious freedom in this state," Cuomo said. "How we do that in the words are very, very important and we have been working with a number of senators through that."
Cuomo said he is still "cautiously optimistic" that it will pass "at the right time."
One of the most outspoken critics of the bill's current religious protections has been Sen. Greg Ball, R-Putnam County, who has traded barbs with Cuomo's office over the issue in recent days.
On Friday, Ball said changing the legislation might be its only hope of passing. He and Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, have publicly called for stronger language to prevent lawsuits against churches and groups who refuse to recognize same-sex marriage, while others have done so privately.
"At first, the governor's knee-jerk reaction was to say we're not going to address it," Ball said. "Now he realizes it's not just myself but a small chorus of people who have similar concerns, and now it looks like it's being addressed."
The Assembly passed Cuomo's same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday. Any changes to the language would be made through a chapter amendment, Cuomo said, meaning the Assembly would have to hold a new vote only on any changes to the bill language.
Monday marks the last scheduled day of the 2011 legislative session, but lawmakers have signaled they will likely stay in Albany for at least part of next week.
Includes reporting by Jon Campbell, Gannett Albany Bureau