Monday, November 9, 2009

New York's Marriage Equality Bill Faces Uphill Battle As Tuesday's Senate Vote Looms

UPDATE 3 5:36pm: Mayor Bloomberg urges the senate to vote for marriage equality.

UPDATE 2 2:52pm PST: Openly gay NYC City Council speaker Christine Quinn spoke on the senate marriage vote. See video of the press conference at the bottom of the post.

UPDATE: Making things worse, the National Organization for Marriage just announced plans “to build a $500,000 war chest to fund a primary challenge to any Republican senator who votes for gay marriage – regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s vote in the State Senate.” Read the press release and more at LGBT POV.

Tomorrow, November 10, New York state's senate may finally hold their long-delayed vote on the marriage equality bill that Gov. David Paterson has been pushing. The special session tomorrow will include much needed votes on other state business, but the governor also added the bill to the agenda in the hopes that it will finally get voted on.

Yet the ugly head of doubt has reared, casting a shadow over tomorrow and the possibility of marriage equality passing. Democratic leaders in the Senate are expected to negotiate late into the night Monday on whether or not to place the bill up for a vote.

Democratic Senator Diane J. Savino from Staten Island supports the bill and believes there's a 70% chance of it reaching the floor, she told the New York Times.

“I’m pretty confident,” she said, adding, “I hope that I am right.”
Advocates on both sides of the issue lobbied senators over the weekend, but it was still unclear on Sunday whether the measure could attract the 32 votes needed in the State Senate for approval. (The Assembly has already passed the bill.)


In New York, Democrats hold a shaky 32-to-30 majority in the Senate, and some senators oppose allowing the legislation to come to the floor for a vote.

Those who favor the bill say they realize they are risking another significant defeat but are determined to get legislators on record on the issue. They also say that now may be the best time to push lawmakers to take up the bill, given that next year all 212 members of the Legislature will face re-election.

Estimates vary, but supporters of the bill believe they can count on about 25 votes for the legislation at this time.
“I think we’re starting from a position of strength,” Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, told the New York Times. He opposes the bill. “I don’t believe they have the votes, and it’s an act of desperation. Our position is to maintain the votes we have, and people are certainly in contact with our senators and we are encouraging that. This is not going to pass.”

Another obstacle facing the marriage bill lies in Sen. Pedro Espada, who earlier in the year defected to the Republicans, causing the Senate to have a power split 31-31. This coup caused the turmoil that delayed the bill in the first place.

He's back with the Democrats and supports marriage equality, but Elizabeth Benjamin at NY Daily News says he has a plan that could cause problems.
Espada suggested linking the marriage bill, which Gov. David Paterson has put on the calendar for Tuesday's session, with the farm workers' rights bill that he (and the DN) have been championing for some time.
"Sen. Pedro Espada is linking the two, and I am writing to the governor, dismayed as I am that migrant workers is not on, and I think there's probably more support for that," the majority leader told me, lapsing into that rather odd habit he has of referring to himself in the third person.
For those trying to get a read on whether the marriage bill will come up for a vote Tuesday, this cannot come as good news. It seems to be that Espada is setting himself up with an out should the bill come to the floor - or, at the very least, an excuse for voting "no".

Espada Jr. Links Gay Marriage To Farm Workers' Rights from Elizabeth Benjamin on Vimeo.

So with the odds stacking against the passage of marriage, why take a vote? Supporters say it's important to know where the legislators stand and that next year, the chances of it passing could be worse.

Towleroad talked to Gov. Paterson
in an exclusive interview, asking him why it's important to vote now.

Says Paterson of the marriage equality bill: "People who've lived together for 10, 20, 30 years are waiting, hoping that this legislation will pass while they still have the breath to elicit an 'I do' on the altar, and I think it's time that it happens, and if I have to see legislation fail so I can identify who voted against it to better persuade them, then I'll take that chance."

Of the bill's fate should Senators vote on it, Paterson says: "In this case, I have a feeling if it got on the floor it would be voted up."

Paterson also says people should see opportunity in defeats like the ballot measure in Maine: "I think there's this feeling that if legislation fails that it's this colossal loss for the cause. I find it to be motivational. I think that the public referendum in Maine should inspire us that there's more work to do, more persuasion to be made, more understanding to be reached, and more sensitivity to be displayed, and those of us who have been a catalyst for marriage equality have to regroup and work harder."
ACTION: Empire State Pride Agenda has called on New Yorkers to contact their Senators and urge them to vote for marriage equality. Click on the image below or on this link to get your Senator's information and call NOW!

Christine Quinn:


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