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May 12, 2009

Gay Marriage in New York?

So same sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa. (And will be in Vermont and Maine by September 2009). We're really happy for those states, but also pissed off that our own state of New York hasn't followed suit yet.

In April Governor David Patterson introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage (one that a majority of New York voters support). The bill would amend the Domestic Relations Law to give same-sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil marriages, qualifying them for state rights on issues such as property ownership, inheritance, healthcare and insurance coverage. (Note: it specifically says "civil marriages", so all those bullshit lies about how priests could go to jail for not performing same sex weddings don't apply).

The bill has just passed through the New York State Assembly by a bipartisan vote of 89-52. Yay! Getting it through the Senate might be a little trickier. (A similar bill passed in the Assembly in 2007 with a vote of 85-61, but couldn't pass in the Senate).

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has stated that he won't bring the bill to the floor of the Senate unless he' s sure it has sufficient votes to pass. As of now it still seems like the numbers come up short, so what can we do about that? Although Republican Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos opposes marriage equality, in April he stated that members of the Senate Republican Conference will be free to vote their consciences rather than pressuring the GOP to vote against the bill.

Recent articles in New York magazine and the New York Times broke it down on who the swing voters might be. Some of them are "undecided" on the issue (or just haven't spoken out publicly about their stance) while others are against the bill but worth the time to try to convince them to change their minds! So we think it'd be a good idea to get in touch with those Senators and tell them how important it is for them to support same-sex marriage.

  • Thomas P. Morahan (R-Rockland County) - He has said that he's "not going to come out one way or the other" on the issue.
  • Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau County) - He told the Times that although he's inclined to oppose the bill, it "deserves serious consideration".
  • Vincent L. Leibell (R-Westchester/Putnam/Dutchess) - He prefers civil unions to marriage, but said that he might not make up his mind until the last minute and that "society changes over time". (Interesting piece of info: His law practice does estate planning for gay couples).
  • James S. Alesi (R-Rochester) - "My public opinion has not been stated yet, and it probably won't be for a while". (Possible factor: He attends a church that blesses same-sex unions).
  • Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Hamptons) - Gay rights advocates consider him "open" to considering a yes vote.
  • Elizabeth O'C. Little (R-Queensbury) - Gay rights supporters believe she is "within reach". So um, let's reach out to her, shall we?
  • David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) - He was quoted in April: "I don't think that that's an issue that should be at the forefront of the Senate agenda and I would be very surprised if it was anytime soon." He would not say whether he himself supported the bill or not.
  • Shirley L. Huntley (D-Jamaica) - She opposes the bill largely based on her religious beliefs and that she's had a "large influx of calls and letters from constituents who asked me not to support it." Hm... sounds like it's time for a large influx of calls and letters from constituents who do want her to support it?
  • Brian X. Foley (D-Suffolk County) - He has yet to voice a decision either way.
  • Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) - She's said that she's reserving judgment on the issue. Good sign:"I always try to believe that I'm an open-minded person." Bad sign: "This is an issue that challenges the fundamental believes that people have and that's not easy."
  • John L. Sampson (D-Brooklyn) - He went from no to undecided, saying "I can't impose my own religious beliefs in a situation like this".
  • George Onorato (D-Astoria) - He might be the biggest problem of all the Democrats... Apparently he has pledged to vote against marriage equality for reasons of "faith" and being "old fashioned and so far little progress has been made with him. There are already have been organized attempts to change his mind, so feel free to jump on board, especially if you're from his district.
You can contact the New York Senate: here or here.

Maybe you think it's a waste of time... but look at U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who no longer supports the Defense of Marriage Act, despite voting for it in the past. And here in New York, Assembly member Joe Lentol initially opposed gay marriage, but voted for the bill in 2007, and there are several members who voted no in 2007 but changed their votes to yes this time around. The point is that politicians do change their minds - and it's up to us to help them get there in time for this bill to pass.

For more information on which district you live in and what you can do in your area: Marriage Equality New York. (If you're in NYC this weekend, you might also want to check out this event May 17th).

And of course, if you are going to try to go head to head with your senator, some myth-busting tips might help you counter any anti-gay arguments.

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the names. I just saw that the bill passed the Assembly and was wondering which senators needed to get e-mails and phone calls.

liamstliam said...

An update: Betty Little, my senator, has ome out against it.

The guy I talked to was nice and attributed it to political pressure from the other side.

Bill

Lilith said...

All the more reason to reach out to her and give her some "political pressure" from this side.