New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand cause a stir yesterday calling “marriage equality” one of the main issues she wants to work on in the time leading up to her 2012 election. It was made note of at Towelroad, Good As You, JoeMyGod, and Freedom to Marry blog.

Tacking away from economic issues she says:

“But there are other issues, I also want too work on marriage equality. I want to make sure everyone in this country can be married to the people they love.”

The comment is met with great applause by the studio audience and even a affirmative head bob from View Co-host Sherri Sheppard, who has had a rocky relationship with the gay community, on the issues of Prop 8 and HIV. Sherri? We embrace your evolution.

Let's also hope this is a sign that Gillibrand may be ready to join fellow New Yorker Jerry Nadler's House effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Nadler introduced H.R.3567 – Respect for Marriage Act of 2009, that would repeal DOMA in full. More on this bill here from Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry. The Senate could use a champion on this issue as no one ever introduced a Senate companion bill.

While it's probably true that actual chances for repeal of DOMA are remote in the 112th Congress (to understate it), that doesn't mean we can't work to shore up support and sponsors, so it can move more quickly when the time is right (2013?).

And of course, there is the unofficial bully pulpit Gillibrand holds in the Empire State. LezGetReal is reporting that State Senator Tom Duane intends to file the marriage equality bill “within weeks” and push for a vote by June. Melanie Nathan says Hopes are High for Marriage Equality in New York:

However, now Duane and other marriage equality supporters believe with the election of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his call for the legalization of same-sex marriage in his State of the State address earlier this month and his appointment yesterday of Erik Bottcher, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s liaison to the gay community, to a newly created cabinet post, the dynamic has changed to their favor.

They also see Cuomo’s poll numbers as a big plus for their cause… 68% of New Yorkers say they trust him to do the right thing for the state.

“I think the governor is starting in a strong political place with the people on his side and the wind at his back,” said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.

We can press this new cabinet member, Bottcher, to also make sure that the GENDA bill moves forward this year. Offering discrimination protection to the trans community, the New York Assembly passed it last session, only to have it killed in the Senate. Washington Blade reported Jan 13:

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said the “political dynamic remains very promising” for passing a same-sex marriage bill as well as a transgender civil rights bill in New York.

Gillibrand is distinguishing herself as a real fierce advocate and a real star in the Senate. The entire segment is available here. She gave a report on her visit to her friend Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, calls Sarah Palin's remarks after the Tucson incident “not helpful” and “inappropriate.” She shows in this, and her recent Daily Show appearance, a real charisma for mass market TV appearances. Hopefully we'll see more of this. She is also credited with helping Senior Senator Chuck Schumer evolve into supporting marriage equality. She's a very good one to have in our corner.

Certainly, there are few people in the Empire State that won't pick up the phone when their assistant says, “Senator Gillibrand on line one.”

And, if history's any indication, few people will hang the phone up unpersuaded.

  • It's a good news week for marriage equality all around. Good news comes from a Daily Kos commissioned poll on this issue. Results showed that “conventional wisdom” that marriage equality is a loser with racial minorities seems to be in question.
  • In other news, the Supreme Court of the US told foes of marriage equality in DC they can stuff it. They rejected their challenge to the law, and request that marriage equality be put up to a popular vote via ballot initiative. More details here.

With the gays winning big Sunday Night at the Golden Globes, Maggie Gallagher and her friends at NOM must have their hands full in damage control this week. Isn't that shame?
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