News

New York State Assembly prepares for marriage vote

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Thursday May 7, 2009

As the state Assembly prepares for a possible vote on Tuesday on a bill that would extend marriage to same-sex couples, supporters continue to call upon lawmakers in Albany to follow legislators in neighboring states who have passed similar legislation in recent days and weeks.

The District of Columbia Council voted 12-1 earlier this week to recognize marriages of same-sex couples. The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow gay and lesbian Granite Staters to marry. And Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed legislation on the same day that extends nuptials to same-sex couples.

State Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea] described Baldacci's decision to sign his state's marriage bill into law as "another hurdle cleared in the fight for civil and equal rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." Duane added he feels his colleagues in Albany should follow suit.

"The momentum is here and I vow that civil marriage will become a reality in New York-and that it will happen soon," he said.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea] agreed.

"It is my hope that New York's leaders in Albany will see this wisdom," she said in a statement as she referred to Baldacci.

"We have the opportunity this springtime to make New York proud by having our state legislature stand with our neighbors to make marriage legal for gay and lesbian families."

Governor David Paterson introduced a marriage bill in both the Assembly and state Senate last month. State Assemblymember Fred Thiele [R-Sag Harbor] became the latest Republican who has publicly backed the proposed legislation. And it is widely expected to pass the Assembly.

It remains unclear, however, whether Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans, Queens] has enough support among his members to ensure the bill's passage. Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] refused to allow a marriage bill introduced by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer onto the Senate floor in 2007, but his successor, Minority Leader Dean Skelos [R-Rockville Centre] told his Republican colleagues last month they can vote their conscience.

A Siena College poll conducted last month indicated 53 percent of New Yorkers surveyed support marriage for same-sex couples. Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle again pointed to lawmakers in Northern New England who have passed marriage legislation in recent weeks.

"We have the opportunity this springtime to make New York proud by having our state legislature stand with our neighbors to make marriage legal for gay and lesbian families," he said.

Quinn agreed.

"We need to write, phone, fax and email our state representatives in Albany and let them know that it is time for full equal rights to come to New York State," she said.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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