Duane says colleagues broke promises, betrayed the state’s LGBT community by defeating bill
The New York State Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 2, rejected a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in a 38-24 vote. The bill had passed the State Assembly repeatedly, and Gov. David Paterson was chomping at the bit to sign it into law.
Eight Democrats voted against the bill. No Republicans voted for it.
Openly gay Sen. Tom Duane, the Manhattan Democrat who authored the bill, said he was "enraged, deeply disappointed and profoundly saddened" by the vote.
"Promises made were not honored," Duane said. "The LGBT community and all fair-minded New Yorkers have been betrayed."
Alan Van Capelle, head of the LGBT lobby group Empire State Pride Agenda, said that while the group was "disappointed by today’s vote, we are pleased that the issue of marriage equality at last was debated in the New York State Senate.
"We had long called for a public debate on this matter so we could determine who was truly on our side," he said. "Now we know where we stand and where we need to concentrate our efforts in the future."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg echoed Van Capelle’s take.
"Although I … know that the sense of anguish and frustration is even more pronounced among gay and lesbian New Yorkers, at least we now know where individual legislators stand," Bloomberg said. "And so now we begin a new effort to secure the additional votes needed to pass this bill.
"Historic change does not come easily, but this vote was a crucial step that I believe will ultimately lead the state to extend full marriage rights to all couples," the mayor said.
Gov. Paterson said the outcome would have been different had senators voted their consciences.
"I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. I understand the feeling of betrayal, and I understand the profound disappointment of those who came to Albany today thinking they could get married tomorrow," he said. "I believe in my heart that if people had voted their consciences today, we would be celebrating marriage equality tonight. That did not happen.
"As disappointed as we are today, let’s get up tomorrow and redouble our efforts," Paterson said. "We are going to lay the foundation to make people feel comfortable to vote their conscience and not fear political backlash."
Paterson also said the vote gives marriage equality supporters direction for renewed efforts.
"Now we know who we have to talk to. We are going to quash the intimidation. We are going to alleviate the pressure. We are going to move this issue back to the floor of the Senate and we are going to have marriage equality in New York state and equal rights for everybody," he said.
National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell called the vote "a heartbreaker."
"To see justice denied yet again is crushing," she said.
"But we cannot be down for long. The lessons of every human rights movement teach us that setbacks and dark days are always the risk in fighting for equality and justice."
Kendall also applauded the courage Duane and the 24 senators "who stood for equality, fairness and love. Their names will be remembered and so will their votes.
The time is long past for those who reject our basic dignity and value to do so without consequence. The votes of those who affirmed our equality and humanity will be vindicated, of that we can be certain."
The National Organization for Marriage gloated over the outcome.
"Praise God!" wrote Executive Director Brian S. Brown. "NOM spent $600,000 reaching out to voters through phone calls and television and radio ads to make sure politicians heard from ordinary voters like you. Gay marriage inevitable? Don’t believe the lie!"
Brown continued, "This great victory will reverberate up and down America, putting the fear of God — and the American voter — into the hearts of weak-kneed and weak-willed politicians everywhere."
A few hours after the vote, 200 to 300 people gathered in Times Square to protest the Senate vote, following a call issued on blogs and social-networking sites.
In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and, starting in January, New Hampshire. It also is expected to become legal in Washington, D.C., in January.
Same-sex marriage also was legalized in California and Maine, but voters later re-banned it.
Internationally, same-sex couples can marry in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 4, 2009.