BREAKING NEWS: NY State Senate Rejects Marriage Bill
by Michael K. Lavers
EDGE National News Editor
Wednesday Dec 2, 2009
The New York State Senate voted 24-38 today against a bill that would have allowed gays and lesbians to marry in the Empire State.
The long-delayed vote came on the heels of more than two hours of passionate and even emotional debate on the Senate floor.
“Provide me with the exact same rights as you have Madam President and each and every member of the New York State Senate has,” openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan,] who initially introduced the bill, said. “It would make me equal in every way to everyone else in this chamber.”
State Sen. Diane Savino [D-Staten Island] was among those who applauded Duane as she spoke in support of marriage for gays and lesbians.
“We have nothing to fear from Tom Duane and [his partner] Louis,” she said. “We have nothing to fear from [state Assemblymember] Danny O’Donnell and his partner. We have nothing to fear from love and commitment.”
State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson [D-Mount Vernon] spoke about her gay brother as she announced her support of the marriage bill. She also discussed those who continue to oppose nuptials for same-sex couples based on their religious convictions.
“Nobody elected me… to be the moral arbiter of their decisions,” Hassell-Thompson said. “They did ask me to provide leadership and the rights for all of the people I serve.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans] was more blunt.
“What is wrong is not knowing what the Bible says and retreating to it,” he said.
State Sen. David Valesky [D-Oneida] was among the handful of undecided lawmakers who supported the bill, but embattled state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Jackson Heights] and state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., were among the eight Democrats who voted against it. No Republicans supported the bill.
“Let’s do what Mayor Bloomberg did: let’s go against the will of the people by doing [it] through politicians and without the people’s will,” Diaz said as he spoke in opposition to the bill. “Let the people decide. I say let the people decide. If you put this issue before the voters, they will reject it.”
Activists were quick to react.
“While we are disappointed by today’s vote, we are pleased that the issue of marriage equality at last was debated in the New York State Senate,” Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said. “We had long called for a public debate on this matter so we could determine who was truly on our side.”
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn expressed disappointment.
“Today the New York State Senate rejected an opportunity to declare that all citizens in New York are equal,” she said. “This is a loss for every family in New York. This is a loss for every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorker.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, agreed.
“Today’s vote is a vote against equal treatment for New York families,” he said.
Activists are planning to rally tomorrow night in Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan and in Albany.