Protests add to lively 1st day of marriage in NY

Posted on 25 Jul 2011 at 1:29pm
Westboro Baptist Church protests in New York City.

The first day of marriage equality in New York ended without incident although several groups in Manhattan staged protests, according to an email from the New York LGBT group Connecting Rainbows.

Members of Westboro Baptist Church, the hate group with the most experience protesting LGBT rights, were cordoned off inside a small police barrier on the street outside the governor’s New York City office. They flashed new signs like “Fags cannot marry,” along with “Thank God for 9-11,” specifically designed to enrage New Yorkers.

Others demonstrating on behalf of discrimination included a large Hispanic group led by State Sen. Ruben Diaz, the only Democrat to vote against equality, as well as a Hasidic (Jewish ultra-Orthodox) group.

The Hasidic group held signs that read, “LGBT Education will cost us billions” and “Redefining marriage bashes bible believers.” Religious groups were given strict exemptions in the New York marriage equality law. It’s unclear what the group meant by “LGBT Education.”

The Hispanic group was the largest. Several hundred marched from Cuomo’s Midtown Manhattan office to the United Nations. In June, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution that seeks equal rights for all regardless of sexual orientation.

Anti-LGBT protesters also appeared in Albany, Rochester and Buffalo, according to the Buffalo News.

In Buffalo, they gathered at City Hall. But that city did not open its offices on Sunday for licenses. Marriages in western New York were taking place mostly at Niagara Falls. The mayor of that city conducted what is reported to be the first same-sex marriage in the state at a park on an island overlooking the American falls at midnight.

A Buffalo senator is one of four Republicans who voted for equality and protestors vowed to find a conservative opponent to run against him.

The Albany Times Union reports that Albany’s mayor married six couples after midnight in the Common Council chamber.

Later that day, the hate group National Organization for Marriage protested in the state capital rather than in New York City. Brian Brown, president of NOM, wants marriage equality be put on the ballot as a referendum. But unlike California, New York doesn’t have a referendum process. Brown also suggested amending the state Constitution. That would take a vote of two successive legislatures, something not likely to happen after the Assembly voted by wide margins in three successive sessions to approve the bill.

NOM’s protest took place on the west lawn of the Capitol, which is in the middle of Albany’s gay neighborhood and just three blocks from the nation’s first LGBT community center.

Counter-protesters held signs that read, “I support your right to be a bigot.”

While newspapers from around the state published photos of newlywed couples, only the Albany newspaper had a slideshow that included couples kissing — along with photos from a ceremony that took place in a gay bar.

A conservative group represented by an attorney from Lynchburg, Va., and associated with Jerry Falwell’s church has filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriage, according to the Buffalo News. They are asking the court to stop same-sex marriage and declare void any marriages already performed.

The group contends in its lawsuit that the state’s open meetings laws were violated and that votes were bought. After passage, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made donations to the Republicans who voted in favor the bill and to the Democrats who had previously voted against it.

Among the many charges is violation of the open meetings act. Demonstrators had filled the Capitol and before the final vote were cleared from the building.

They also charge that Republican Senators turned off their cell phones so that lobbyists could not reach them. That, they contend, is unprecedented. Indeed. What would the founding fathers and writers of the Constitution have said about that? Surely none of them would have had the effrontery to turn off their cell phones so that high-paid lobbyists could not reach them during a floor vote.

No word on whether or when the Supreme Court will act, but New York courts tend not to rule on the workings of the legislative branch.

A spokesman for Cuomo said the lawsuit is “without merit” and added, “The plaintiffs lack a basic understanding of the laws of the state of New York.”

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