The Governor of New York has said that he wants a Democrat controlled state Senate to legalise gay marriage as one of it’s priorities in 2009.

Eliot Spitzer made his remarks on Wednesday at a fund-raising event for the Senate Democratic Committee in Greenwich village, where guests had paid up to $10,000 to attend.

A witness told The New York Post that Governor Spitzer said:

“One of the first things we’re going to do when [Senate Minority Leader] Malcolm Smith is [majority] leader is gay marriage.”

His words were met with applause, the witness added, by the crowd of Senators,

Democratic activists and lobbyists, who were assembled in the library of the West 13th Street home of the creator of HBO’s prison drama Oz Tom Fantana.

Unlike many of the Governor’s speeches, no recording was made of the event.

Another witness, an elected official, reported that while he couldn’t remember the exact words of the Governor, he had indicated that he would follow the State assembly’s Lead of passing the first ever gay-marriage bill.

Gay marriage is still a highly contentious issue in New York.

A May survey by Siena College found that while 43 percent of New Yorkers are in favour of it, 47 percent are still against.

Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, denied the Governor had said gay marriage would be a top priority. The cheers, she added, had been for his mention of the Assembly passing a gay-marriage bill.

John McArdle, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, told The New York Post:

“This is Governor Spitzer promoting another divisive issue and it indicates that his priorities are all wrong.”

Spitzer repeatedly endorsed gay marriage during his election campaign last autumn but had said that it’s adoption wasn’t a top priority.