Monday, June 8, 2009

VIDEO UPDATE: New Leaders Sworn In/Democrats Lose Control of NY Senate in Coup - End of New York's Marriage Equality Bill?

UPDATE: New Senate Majority Leaders, Senator Pedro Espada and Senator Dean Skelos are sworn in as new leaders of the Senate.

So it's becoming more apparent that this coup has nothing to do with the marriage equality bill. Espada has stated he's pro-marriage equality and Monserrate, at least according to the recent NY1 survey, is undecided.

But with all the chaos, will marriage equality become a priority, especially now that the senate session has so little time left to vote?

See more video at Towleroad.

The New York Times is reporting:
Republicans seized control of the New York State Senate on Monday, in a stunning and sudden reversal of fortunes for the Democratic Party, which controlled the chamber for barely five months.

A raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a motion that would displace Democrats as the party in control.
Senate Republicans quickly claimed that they were on the verge of controlling the chamber. “A new bipartisan, coalition is being established that is bringing real reform to the Senate right now,” Republicans said in a statement emailed to reporters at 3:20 p.m.

As the events were unfolding on the floor, Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens, leader of the Senate Democrats, huddled in the hall just off the Senate chamber and consulted with his staff. When asked what was occurring, he responded, “I’m trying to find out right now.”

At 4:44 p.m., Mr. Smith’s office released a statement insisting that control of the Senate had not changed hands.

“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority,” Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Mr. Smith, said. “Nothing has changed. Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected temporary president and majority leader. The real Senate majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work.”
Many are wondering if this defection is related at all to the contentious marriage equality bill that Sen. Smith has backed, but that Democrat Sen. Ruben Diaz, who staunchly opposes anything LGBT, is against.

Elizabeth Benjamin at the New York Daily News reports:
Another rumor du jour is that Diaz, who is furious that the gay marriage bill he opposes appears to be gaining some traction in the Senate, would be angry enough with Smith if the measure comes up for a vote on the floor to join the Senate GOP.

I asked Diaz about that, and he said:

"Today? No. Tomorrow? Who knows? Tomorrow is another day. It's always another day. You ask me do I plan to do that. I say, no. In the future, who knows what the future brings."

"The only thing I can tell you, and you can interpret this any which way you want: When I give my word, I keep my word. In order for me to break my word, you have to break yours first."

Here's how I interpret that:

It's a (typically) cryptic way of Diaz Sr. confirming the worst fears of marriage advocates - that there was indeed a deal between himself and Smith that the gay marriage bill would not come to the floor in exchange for Diaz Sr.'s support of Smith for majority leader.

And now, in Diaz Sr.'s mind, if Smith brings the bill to the floor, all bets are off.
And they say the gays are dramatic. I wouldn't say that this coup is directly related to the marriage equality bill - that in my opinion is a big jump, especially considering that Sen. Diaz didn't defect to the Republican side.

However, it wouldn't surprise me either, especially with all the "he said she said" going on in the senate over the bill lately.

In the end, this just makes me sad that the democratic process in New York has been ignored and violated, and that there's barely any chance for marriage equality legislation to have its chance by being voted upon. If there's a miracle, marriage equality may have its day in the sun in the New York Senate, otherwise it will die. Again.

ACTION: Contact your New York senator and demand that they not let this happen!

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