BREAKING: New York Senate approves same-sex marriage in 33-29 vote; Gov. Cuomo signs bill

More than 45,000 people watched the Senate’s vote online.

Advocates say victory in 3rd-largest state could be turning point

REX WOCKNER  |  Wockner News Service

New York state legalized same-sex marriage late Thursday.

The Senate passed the bill 33-29 at 10:29 p.m. Eastern time and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law less than 90 minutes later.

Same-sex couples can begin marrying July 24.

“This state, when it is at its finest, is a beacon of justice,” Cuomo said.

Twenty-nine of the Senate’s 30 Democrats voted for the bill, along with four of the body’s 32 Republicans.

Some activists said New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage marks the end of the road for the anti-same-sex-marriage movement, which took away gay people’s right to marry in California in 2008 and in Maine in 2009, removed from the bench Iowa Supreme Court justices who legalized same-sex marriage there, and persuaded a majority of U.S. states to ban same-sex marriage by law or in their constitutions.

“Game over,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Now that we’ve made it here, we’ll make it everywhere,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson, calling it an “epic win.”

“There’s no doubt that today will be revered as a major turning point in civil rights history,” said American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin. “A bipartisan group of legislators have affirmed that equal rights for every citizen is not a partisan issue, but an American value.”

Revelers shut down Christopher Street outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City after the vote. (Photos by Scott Wooledge)

AFER is behind the federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8, via which voters re-banned same-sex marriage in 2008. The state constitutional amendment was struck down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution in 2010, but the ruling is now stalled in the federal appeal process.

“This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York “honors New York’s unique history as being the place where the modern gay rights movement sprang to life 42 years ago this month at the Stonewall Inn in New York City — a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people stood up and fought back for their dignity and rightful place in society.”

Longtime New York City activist Corey Johnson called it “a watershed moment.”

“It’s a turning point,” he said. “This is a significant and tremendous loss for NOM (the anti-gay activist group National Organization for Marriage). In many ways, it takes the wind out of their sails.”

The White House issued a tepid statement saying: “The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should. … The president has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

President Barack Obama has refused to come out in support of same-sex couples’ right to marry, saying he prefers “civil unions.” He has said, however, that his views on same-sex marriage are “evolving.” In recent days, the media has again highlighted the fact that in 1996, when he was running for the Illinois Senate, Obama told the Chicago gay newspaper Outlines, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

In New York City, at least 1,000 people took to the streets in celebration outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. When police made an early attempt to clear the unauthorized street party, those gathered reportedly chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us.”

New York has no way for voters to undo laws or amend the state constitution. The only ways to re-ban same-sex marriage in New York would be to pass a repeal measure through the Legislature or call a constitutional convention. Both possibilities are extremely unlikely.

Same-sex marriage also is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Same-sex marriages from elsewhere are recognized as marriages in Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and California (if the marriage took place before Proposition 8 passed).

Eleven other nations allow same-sex couples to marry — Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide).

—  John Wright

N.Y. Republican on gay marriage: ‘F**k it. I’m trying to do the right thing’

As we reported here on Instant Tea, the New York Senate appears to be just one vote shy of the majority needed to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. And one reason marriage supporters are so close to the magic number of 32 is because one Republican, Sen. Roy McDonald, decided it was time to throw partisanship out the window and “do the right thing.”

New York Sen.Roy McDonald

According to this post on TMZ.com, in announcing his decision earlier this week to vote for marriage equality, McDonald declared:

“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.”

Well, I say, you go, Sen. McDonald. It’s about time somebody actually pointed out that this is an issue of fairness and equality; partisan politics shouldn’t matter, and neither should some individuals’ personal religious beliefs. What matters is doing the right thing.

Marriage equality supporters — and I am one — appreciate all the New York senators who are backing the marriage bill there. But when someone is willing to step out and state their support in such unequivocal terms and to stress that they support marriage equality because it is the right thing to do as McDonald did, then they deserve some special thanks.

—  admin

UPDATE: New York Assembly passes gay marriage bill — again

As David Taffet noted here earlier today, New York’s Senate appears to be one vote shy of the number needed to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. But the New York Daily News is reporting that the state’s Assembly has voted again to approve the legislation.

The Assembly has voted three times before to legalize gay marriage. In today’s vote, the measure passed 80-63, the lowest margin by which it has passed since it was first approved in 2007.

 

—  admin

New York may be next to legalize gay marriage

Evan Wolfson

Rhode Island considering civil unions; efforts under way in 6 states to ban gay marriage

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The openly gay sponsor of a marriage equality bill in Rhode Island said last week he would push for a civil unions bill instead, setting off a slew of criticism from LGBT groups.

Six states are considering legislation that would ask voters to amend their state constitutions to ban recognition of any legal relationships for same-sex couples. And all this was on the heels of a dramatic loss for a marriage equality bill in Maryland in March.

Has the state legislative fight for marriage equality lost momentum?

Not according to Evan Wolfson, executive director of the national Freedom to Marry group.

“Both Rhode Island and Maryland are very much still in play,” said Wolfson. “. . . The fact that we don’t win it exactly on the day we want . . . doesn’t change the overall momentum that is strongly in our direction.”

The “highest priority” right now, said Wolfson, is New York. He said he is “very hopeful” a marriage bill that is expected to pass the New York State Assembly, which is under Democratic control, will also pass the Senate, where Republicans hold a 32-to-26 majority.

Wolfson acknowledges the Senate may be more difficult. While a marriage equality bill passed the Assembly three times in the past four years, an attempt to pass it in the Senate in 2009 failed by 14 votes.

New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican who opposes marriage equality, has nevertheless said he would let a marriage equality bill come to the floor.

And several recent polls show that a majority of voters in the state support marriage equality. A Siena College poll April 11 showed that 58 percent of New Yorkers support it, with 36 percent opposed. An April 14 Quinnipiac poll showed 56 percent support, with 38 percent opposed, and a New York Times estimated projection on the same date also showed 58 percent support.

Additionally, two dozen New York business leaders, including Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and John Mack, chairman of the board of Morgan Stanley, on April 28 issued an open letter arguing that legalizing marriage for same-sex couples would help the state attract talent and remain competitive.

“Winning New York would really be transformative,” said Wolfson, “because New York has enormous cultural and political leadership in the United States and in the world.”

Freedom to Marry and several other LGBT advocacy groups — the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, the League of Women Voters, the Log Cabin Republicans and Marriage Equality New York — have formed the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition, which is coordinating efforts to lobby for the marriage equality bill this session, which adjourns in June.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has expressed strong support for passing such a bill this year, has asked members of his staff to work with the coalition.

In Rhode Island, openly gay Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox, a sponsor of that state’s marriage bill, said in a statement April 27 that “there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate,” and that he will not move forward with a vote in the House.

But the Providence Journal newspaper also reported that Fox said he did not have the votes to pass the bill even in the House, where Democrats hold 65 seats to Republicans’ 10.

Fox instead introduced a bill for civil unions on Tuesday, May 3, and said he is “optimistic” that the bill could pass both chambers this session.
But Fox’s decision has not gone over well with LGBT groups.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island, which supports full marriage, held a rally at the State House to protest Fox’s decision to drop the marriage equality bill. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and others, issued statements criticizing Fox’s decision and calling it “completely unacceptable.”

“Nothing short of marriage is equality for Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian citizens and their children,” said Karen Loewy, a GLAD senior staff attorney. “More to the point, civil unions tell gay people and their kids that they are second-class citizens and that their families matter less than other families.”

Wolfson called Fox’s decision a “miscalculation.” He noted that polls show a majority of support among voters, that Rhode Island already recognizes marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere, and that nearby Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont all began with civil unions and have moved to full equality.

Similar to Rhode Island, marriage equality supporters never had a clear majority in Maryland either, even with the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. The bill passed the Senate in Maryland, but on March 11, the House voted unanimously to send the bill back to committee.

But in Maryland, several LGBT groups, including Equality Maryland, the leading state organization behind the bill, expressed approval for the move.
Wolfson noted, however, that Maryland was “within a couple of votes” of passage. With “a little more time to make the case and organize,” he thinks achieving equality could happen in early 2012.

Meanwhile, three states have enacted civil union laws this year — Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois. Wolfson said that, while civil unions are not the true goal, they still “sometimes can be a stepping stone.”

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, agreed, saying that civil unions “are an important step forward” in states where same-sex couples have no benefits or protections. She added that Lambda is “often very involved,” as it was in Illinois, in drafting such legislation.

But Lambda also brought a suit before the New Jersey state Supreme Court claiming the state’s civil union law did not provide full equality. The court last June refused to hear the case, saying it must first go through the trial court process.

Taylor said she could not say whether Lambda would be filing any further cases to contest civil unions, noting that it is important in each state to first “develop a record of the ways in which it harms people to deny them equal access to marriage.”

Six states — Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington — also have active legislation that would ask voters to amend the state constitutions to ban marriage, and in some cases, recognition of any legal relationships, such as civil unions for same-sex couples.

New Mexico and Wyoming both considered but did not pass such bills this year. Wyoming also rejected a bill that sought to prevent the state from recognizing marriages and civil unions of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions.

Washington state has seen a mish-mash of marriage-related bills. The state already allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners and, on Feb. 14, bills were introduced in both chambers of the legislature for marriage equality.

On April 5, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, signed a bill to recognize legal relationships of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions as domestic partnerships. But there is also a bill in the House that would ask voters to ban marriage for same-sex couples under the state constitution.

Democrats have a majority in both chambers.

The situation in New Hampshire is also mixed. A House committee voted March 3 to table a bill that would repeal the state’s existing marriage equality law, thus postponing further consideration until January 2012.

But opponents of marriage equality have said they will also introduce a bill next year seeking to ask voters in November 2012 to approve amending the state constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

N.Y. ousts 2 anti-equality Democrats

Hiram Monserrate

David Taffet  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

While Tea Party upsets in New York’s Republican primaries topped that state’s primary election news on Tuesday, the LGBT community scored two victories as well.

Two Democrats that blocked the passage of marriage equality in the New York Senate were turned away by their party.

Most notorious was Hiram Monserrate. After voting in Albany to protect traditional marriage as it’s been known since Biblical times, he had to rush back to Queens for sentencing on a domestic violence charge. He had already been found guilty of assaulting his live-in girlfriend.

Monserrate was thrown out of the Senate after his sentencing but he was trying to make a comeback in this election. New York’s LGBT community had targeted his race as well as that of Pedro Espada.

Espada is a Bronx Democrat who also voted against marriage equality. He lost his race by a 2-to-1 margin.

With these two out of the Senate, marriage equality could come to New York in the next session of their legislature. Currently, New York recognizes marriages performed elsewhere.

—  David Taffet