New York Draws Closer To Marriage Equality

New York State appears closer to a vote legalizing same-sex marriage but with lawmakers set to break for summer recess on Monday, the stakes are highest and the outcome remains unclear. As of this evening New York’s three top political leaders Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that while there was no deal the (closed door) talks were encouraging. So far, a vote on the measure introduced by Cuomo, which the state Assembly easily passed last week, has been repeatedly stalled by Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who personally opposes same-sex marriage.

Skelos has publicly expressed concerns over the “unintended consequences” of a bill that redefines the legal parameters of marriage. To garner Republican support, Cuomo’s bill must include enough protections so religious groups that oppose gay marriage aren’t subject to discrimination lawsuits. “We are going back and forth on language,” Cuomo said late Wednesday. “But we have not hit any obstacles.” If the exceptions are approved, the bill will be sent to the Senate floor for a vote by the Republican conference.

Currently 31 senators, including two Republicans, are in favor of the bill. Most notably, 64-year-old New York State Senator Roy MacDonald recently released a statement to the press with the following quote.

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing, You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”

Cuomo’s bill would grant same-sex couples equal rights to marry “as well as hundreds of rights, benefits and protections that are currently limited to married couples of the opposite sex.”
The first-term governor has vocally and consistently lobbied opposition and undecided senators in an effort to secure the single vote needed for its passage. At the close of session tonight, Cuomo said he believed there would be a Senate vote and was “cautiously optimistic that it will pass.”

Meanwhile raucous demonstration and debate has been taking place all week long and focusing all manner of attention around the country and even internationally on marriage equality. Support marches, kiss-ins, celebrity pop-ins, protests, and especially the general mood of anticipation in New York and the daily presence of a variety of organizations in Albany (including yours truly with our foam hands!) bespeaks the urgency of the appeal and the adamancy of all stakeholders.

Groups led by clergy opposed to same-sex marriage sang hymns such as “Victory is Mine” and prayed in small circles while pro-same-sex marriage advocates countered with “God Bless America” and lined the halls outside the Senate chamber. Earlier this week at Sunday Mass, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan addressed the same-sex marriage issue, CBS New York reports. “I know we’re sort of the David here, up against a Goliath, but we’re not going to give up. That’s what this request for prayers was all about,” Dolan again stated the belief of the Catholic Church that marriage is defined by a union between a man and a woman. “Any presumption to redefine that sacred vocabulary, I’m afraid, is at our common peril,” Dolan said.

This is not about religion, this is about civil rights.

The state-by-state battle over gay marriage has made same-sex marriage a key national social issue as the country moves into the 2012 presidential campaign. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, and Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey approved civil unions. But gay marriage is specifically banned in 39 states. The effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York largely stalled two years ago when the state Senate voted it down. Since then, the movement has failed in Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Advocates hope a “yes” vote in New York, the nation’s third most populous state, will jump start the effort to win marriage equality nationally.

Last Wednesday, New York’s Assembly voted 80 to 63 in favor of the bill. A Siena poll earlier this year found 58 percent of New Yorkers support same-sex marriage.

-Revel and Riot Contributor Myra Leibu