State Senator Shirley L. Huntley, a brassy, big-haired Democrat from Queens who opposes same-sex marriage, received a call on Wednesday that left her momentarily stunned.
Maya Angelou was on the line, and she wanted to know if the senator might reconsider her position. Ms. Huntley, hardly the type to be played for a fool, at first thought her staff might be pulling a fast one.
“I said, ‘What?’ ” Ms. Huntley recalled on Thursday, adding that she was not convinced that it was Ms. Angelou until she heard her deep timbre. “I heard the voice, and I said: ‘My God. It is her.’ And that was that.”
Ms. Angelou’s call — one of three the poet and author placed to state senators this week — was part of an effort by prominent supporters of gay rights to persuade reluctant senators to vote for the same-sex marriage bill before the Legislature.
In a telephone interview, Ms. Angelou, who has a home in Harlem, said she felt compelled to speak out because she believes that legalizing same-sex marriage is a matter of social fairness — a subject that has been a theme of her writing.
“I would ask every man and every woman who’s had the blessing of having children, ‘Would you deny your son or your daughter the ecstasy of finding someone to love?’ ” she said.
Ms. Angelou said she believed that society made gay relationships hard enough without the added burden of making marriage illegal.
“To love someone takes a lot of courage,” she said. “So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?”