New York Assembly approves gay marriage bill

Wed. May 13, 2009 12:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

Late Tuesday, the New York Assembly approved a gay marriage bill for a second time, reports the AP.

Passage of Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell's gay marriage bill came as no surprise to Albany watchers who say the real fight lays ahead in the senate.

The vote did serve to illuminate growing support on the issue. Four Assembly members flipped their previous 2007 "no" vote on the bill; supporters romped over opponents in an 89 to 52 vote.

In the final tally, five Republicans joined 84 Democrats in favoring the legislation.

"Thanks to the Assembly's leadership on this issue, we are one step away from winning marriage equality in New York," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay marriage advocacy group.

Conservatives rallied to minimize their losses. Lobbyists for New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and the Christian conservative Alliance Defense Fund continued to apply pressure on undecided lawmakers, while Republican Party officials promised retaliation against members who voted in the affirmative.

The New York Times reports that the party threatened to "strip any politician who votes for same-sex marriage of its affiliation with the party and its ballot line."

The Republican threat came as a surprise to gay marriage watchers who believed the party was prepared to make an about face on the issue in New York and allow Republican lawmakers to make "conscience votes" on the legislation. An April 21 story posted on the website of gay monthly The Advocate quotes Log Cabin Republican Advisor Jeff Cook announcing the change.

"Republicans realize that marriage equality is inevitable in New York and they do not want to vote against this," Cook said. "I think they realize that the polling is changing very fast and they do not want our party to be perceived as being hostile on this issue."

Five Republicans ignored the bluster of their party and voted in favor of gay marriage in New York.

"They are asking only for equal protection under the law," Janet L. Duprey, a Republican, told the Times. "They deserve no less than to have the same rights and ability to share their love."

Still, no one ever expected a fight in the Assembly and winning over the Senate remains a much steeper political mountain to climb despite its Democratic majority.

New York's most vocal gay marriage opponent is a senator from the Bronx, Senator Ruben Diaz. After Governor David Paterson announced he would re-introduce the gay marriage bill and personally shepherd the bill through the Legislature, Diaz held a press conference where he called Paterson "desperate."

"He's desperate," Diaz, a Democrat, said during a meeting of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization. "I don't blame him because he's desperate. He's trying to bring up his poll numbers."

"He's challenged the Christian movement. He's challenged the Christian believers. He's challenged the people that believe in the Bible. We are accepting the challenge."

Diaz has announced he will lead a protest against the gay marriage bill on the steps of Paterson's Manhattan Office Sunday at 1PM.

"I am satisfied with the response against same-sex marriage by members of the community including Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims and non believers," Diaz said in a statement.

Five states – Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and Maine – have legalized gay marriage. In New Hampshire, a gay marriage bill awaits Governor John Lynch's signature to become law.

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine