Massachusetts – Connecticut – Iowa – Vermont…Could New York State be the next in line? It's going to be a close call, but the reality of it all has grown another step closer in making ALL legal citizens of the United States of America equal; something that has been waited for far too long already.
On Thursday, April 16th, 2009, New York State Governor David Paterson has vowed to introduce a bill that would legalize gay marriage. Paterson said he's inclined to push the bill forward even it it's unclear that the measure has enough votes to pass; a maneuver that rarely occurs in Albany, New York's capitol. Paterson is quoted as saying, 'We'll put a bill out and let the people decide one way or another. Why can't people just debate the bill, vote on it and it goes up or down?'
Advocates for same-sex marriage in New York said the recent action in Vermont was one more reminder that now, more than ever before, is the time for the state to grant full marital rights for gay and lesbian couples. The changes face a number of obstacles, and the advocates acknowledge that it could be months, if not longer, before the changes come.
Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the group leading the effort to lobby New York legislators to legalize same-sex marriage, said the Vermont decision would provide leverage for a more assertive approach in Albany. Van Capelle said, "We're going to hold the Legislature accountable. The gay community is raising the bar on what we expect. No longer are politicians going to be able to say they're going to support the bill. They're going to have to say they'll work to bring the bill to the floor so it will pass."
Governor Paterson, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and both Senators, Charles Shumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, support gay marriage. State Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver also supports it and the New York State Assembly has, in fact, already passed a gay marriage bill this session, which the Governor says he would sign into law. The bill just needs to pass the State Senate, where Senate Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith is also a supporter.
Despite such a wide range of support, gay marriage is essentially being blocked by just two people in the State Senate. When the Democrats won a majority in the State Senate for the first time in forty years last fall, they only won a bare majority with 32 Democrats facing off against 30 Republicans. However, right after the election, three of the Democrats threatened to bolt the party and join the Republicans if the leadership didn't kowtow to their special demands. Two of them, Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Carl Kruger, put gay marriage right at the top pf their agenda. The third of the self styled 'Three Amigos', Pedro Espada, Jr., hasn't made an issue of it. Diaz and Kruger said that if Malcolm Smith tries to pass a gay marriage bill in the Senate, they would leave the party and strip the Democrats of their control of the chamber, which is not an idle threat.
Diaz first started making anti-homosexual headlines when, as a former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apppointee, he tried to drum up support to block holding the Gay Games (an Olympic-style sporting competition for homosexuals) in New York City in 1994 because 'it would spread AIDS'. Ignorant! Diaz is the minister of an evangelical Spanish language church in the Bronx. He regularly cites his religious beliefs as reason for his constant vilifying of gays and lesbians. Hypocrite! During his stand off with the Senate leadership this past November, Diaz said, "My position as an ordained minister and pastor will not allow me to support any would-be leader that will bring gay marriage to the Senate floor!" Since being elected to his seat in 2002, Diaz has regularly run full page advertisements in many Bronx newspapers saying that gays and lesbians are 'a threat that need to be stopped'…and that he will stop them. Diaz uses a very old political tactic. He whips up fear among constituents and builds his power base by scapegoating a minority.
A bill to legalize gay marriage in New York State died in 2007. Paterson wants gay marriage over civil unions citing there is clearly a problem when gays and lesbians in civil unions are denied at least 1,200, possibly as many as 1,350 or more, civil protections such as health care and pension rights because they're not legally married. Paterson said, "The timing is always right. It's just who is willing to take that one step…and I am. I think it is, as other states are showing, the only ethical way to treat people who want to live together in peace under civil law. My general feeling about this issue is the right ethical decision will inevitably be the right political decision." Paterson says he believes gay marriage will eventually become law.
Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat, said he will sponsor the Governor's bill, which will be identical to the one backed by former Governor Eliot Spitzer, as a civil rights measure when it passed the Assembly 85 – 61 two years ago. The Democrat-controlled Assembly passed the bill with three Republicans voting in favor, as well as some Democrats who faced criticism in their upstate districts for their support. It died in the Senate, where the Republican majority kept it from even going to a vote. Mark Hansen, spokesman for the Senate Republicans, said, "Our conference is opposed to gay marriage and that has not changed. Senate Majority Leader Smith may support the measure, but he still doesn't believe there are enough votes to pass it."
Rev. Jason Mc Guire, legislative director of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedom, which opposes the measure, thinks at least three Democrats are now against it. No Senate Republican has yet to agree to support a same-sex marriage bill, but many Democrats are optimistic that will change.
A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed 41% of New York voters support same-sex marriage, up from 35% two years earlier. 33% said gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry. 19% said there should be no legal recognition. 13% were undecided. A poll currently being conducted by the New York Daily News shows 64% of New York residents are in favor of same-sex marriages, while 36% are opposed.
The National Organization for Marriage, a group that has fought efforts to broaden definitions of marriage to include homosexual couples, has announced they have begun a $1.5 million nationwide advertising campaign against same-sex marriage. Their first television commercial, with people describing same-sex marriage as a threat to their personal and religious freedoms, against a backdrop of dark clouds and bolts of lightning, recently began airing. Brian Brown, executive director of the organization, insists momentum is building in favor of those who oppose same-sex marriage. Brown says, "This is just the beginning. We won in California. We won in a state where we were told we couldn't win. It was inevitable there. Well, that was wrong. It was wrong there and it's wrong when you apply it to Vermont."
A gay marriage law for New York State is not a pipe dream. We're almost there. Some advocates have focused their efforts on pressuring Senator Diaz to change his mind, but that's highly unlikely. I've heard the efforts described as 'being like someone in the 1930's trying to pressure Hilter to stop persecuting the Jews'. Without his fear mongering, Diaz doesn't have a platform and would lose much of his political relevance. However, Kruger is worth pressuring. He has a much longer history than Diaz does. Being more secure in his seat, Kruger could afford to switch sides on gay marriage. He also knows that if the Democrats continue to pick up Senate seats, the 'Three Amigos' will become irrelevant, and he'll be just on Democratic senator among many.
Forget about that idiot, Diaz. Contact Kruger's office and tell him as a New Yorkers…or as an American if you're not from New York State…you hope he changes his mind and supports passage of the gay marriage bill this session.
New York State Senator Carl Kruger:
Office address: 2201 Avenue U Brooklyn, New York 11229
Office telephone: (718) 743-8610
Fax: (718) 743-5958
New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.:
Office address: 1733 East 172nd Street Bronx, New York 10472
Office telephone: (718) 991-3161
Fax: (718) 991-0309
You may also receive more information and/or donate to the Empire State Pride Agenda by contacting them at their website: http://www.prideagenda.org
'Winning equality and justice for the LGBT community; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered New Yorkers and their families.'