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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State

Senate (in)activity during the week of 2011-JUNE-12

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The acronym LGBT refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
and transsexual communities. SSM refers to same-sex marriage.

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This topic continues from a previous essay

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What is at stake:

If the Senate were to pass this bill it would certainly be signed into law by Governor Cuomo (D) who is a strong supporter of marriage equality. It would be an important victory for the LGBT community and their human rights supporters. It would be a serious symbolic loss to religious conservatives who generally oppose SSM.

New York would become the sixth state and seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to make marriage available to same-sex couples. New York State would then have the greatest population of any state with marriage equality. 8 If the bill were to become law, then the number of Americans who have access to SSM locally would more than double from 16 to 35 million people. 11

However, in terms of real impact on people's lives, the bill would have little effect. It would be largely symbolic. That is because an appellate court ruling in 2008 determined that any same-sex couple in New York could visit another state -- like Massachusetts which shares a border with New York -- get legally married there, return to their home state, and have their marriages recognized in New York.

Still, to have the Legislature of a state pass a SSM bill -- particularly one with as large a population and influence of New York State -- would be a major symbolic victory for the LGBT community and civil rights advocates. It would be a major symbolic loss for those religious conservatives who oppose SSM.

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Popular TV and sports stars advocate in Albany:

Cynthia Nixon, one of the stars of the TV and movie series "Sex and the City" and New York Ranger ice hockey player Sean Avery were in the Legislature at Albany, NY to support same-sex marriage. Nixon has been engaged for two years to another woman and hopes to be able to marry her fiancée in her home state. She said:

"I think people have for a long time voted with the status quo. And I think today people are starting to vote their conscience. [Two years ago] when the bill was rejected by the Senate, that felt like a 'beginning of a conversation.' [Since then there has been] "thoughtful debate and deep thinking on this issue. ... The truth of the matter is, people want to be on the right side of history. And people want to be remembered for their vote. And they don't want to be remembered for their 'no' vote. They want to be remembered for their 'yes' vote. Who in history has ever voted to progress civil rights and looked back on that vote and regretted it?" 1

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Conservative religious leader advocates for traditional marriage and responsible parenting:

Rev. Duane Motley, a conservative Christian lobbyist for New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said that legalizing gay marriage would "undermine the stability of our society" because a child of a gay couple can only have a maximum of one parent who is biologically related to her or him. 2 Motley was expressing a relatively new argument used by some religious conservatives that is called "responsible parenting." This only ocurrs when a married couple has children who are genetically related to both parents. If one ignores polygamous marriages, this form of parenting is only possible within a family led by one woman married to one man.

We have been unable to find any studies that indicate that infertile opposite-sex couples who resort to artificial insemination by an anonymous donor in order to conceive have destabilized society. Yet their children are also genetically related to only their mother. Adopting parents typically have no DNA link to their adopted children at all. We have been unable to find any studies indicating that they destabilize society either. Thus, it would seem that a child being raised by one biological parent and one non-biological parent does not represent a problem.

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Senate inactivity:

On 2011-JUN-17, Reuters news agency stated that:

"Compounding the issue is the state's influential Conservative Party, which often cross-endorses Republican candidates but has threatened to withhold endorsements from any lawmaker who votes in favor of the marriage bill. ..."

"Sen. Jim Alesi of Rochester, the first Republican senator to express support for same-sex marriage, predicted last week that the measure would pass with 35 votes. ..."

"Bruce Berg, a professor of political science at Fordham University, said the small number of social conservatives in New York and growing public opinion in favor of gay marriage could shield the undecided senators.

" 'The big issues are the budget, the economy, jobs and taxes. If Republican senators can vote correctly on those issues, they may be given a pass' on same-sex marriage, Berg said." 13

Republican senators spent several hours in a closed meeting discussing the bill on Wednesday, 2011-JUN-16. They also met with Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, who strongly supports SSM.

By the end of the week of 2011-JUN-19, confirmed support for the bill in the Senate stood at 31 votes. However, 32 positive votes are needed in order pass the bill and send it to the governor for his signature. All but one Democratic senator was expected to vote in favor of the bill, and as few as two Republican senators might vote against the bill. However, there are a few Republicans who are wavering in their position.

Neither party appears to represent the wishes of the electorate. The most recent poll shows that 58% of New York adults favor SSM and 36% are opposed for a margin of 22 percentage points favoring SSM. 7

Some commentators had hoped that a vote might have been scheduled for Monday, JUN-20. This was the last scheduled day of the current session. However, Governor Cuomo has extended the session indefinitely. He has said: "There is a full agenda for both the Assembly and Senate to accomplish and the legislative session will not end, either through regular or special session, until the people's business is done." The SSM bill was shelved, even as some other bills that were apparently considered more important were dealt with. These include:

  • Making sweet corn the official state vegetable,
  • Changing bingo rules in the state, and
  • Debating a bill to allow disabled people to hunt game using crossbows.

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Some additional comments:

  • Kenji Yoshino, a professor of constitutional law at New York University's School of Law said: "I don't think any one Republican wants to the one person deciding the vote ... because that person would not get a lot of conservative support in the next election. ... Ironically, it might be easier to get 35 (votes in favor) than it is to get 32."

  • Brian Brown, is president of the National Organization for Marriage -- the main national organization that is opposing marriage equality. He referred to the 31 propositions, referendum, etc. in the past when people in various states have voted on SSM. In each case, marriage equality was defeated, but by gradually shrinking margins. He said: "The voters of New York should have the same ability as 31 other states. We know what marriage is. We know that it's unique and special, and we do not want it redefined."

  • Assembly member Daniel O'Donnell, favors same-sex marriage. He believes that the issue is about equality. He said: "The Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is one of our fundamental rights. I'm not seeking a marriage in the church ... I'm not seeking anything from any religion." 3

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Discussion on this topic continues ....

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Celeste Katz, "Actress Cynthia Nixon And Ranger Sean Avery Lobby Albany For Same-Sex Marriage Legalization," New York Daily News, 2011-JUN-14, at:
  2. Dan Wiessner, "New York Assembly backs gay marriage, Senate showdown next," Reuters, 2011-JUN-15, at:
  3. "Same-sex marriage bill enters last scheduled day of NY session," 2011-JUN-20, at:
  4. Liz Benjamin, "Skelos: GOP Worried About ‘Unintended Consequences’ Of Gay Marriage Bill," Capital Tonight, 2011-JUN-17, at:
  5. "NY marriage bill hits snags on religion questions," USA Today, 2011-JUN-19, at:
  6. Dan Weissner, "New York lawmakers debate allowing gay marriage," Reuters, 2011-JUN-16, at:
  7. "Q 19: Making same sex marriage legal in New York State," Page 4, Siena College Research Institute, 2011-APR-04/06, at:
  8. Dan Weissner, "New York same sex marriage vote delayed," Reuters, 2011-JUN-17, at:
  9. "NY Senate Stalls on Gay Marriage Bill. Vote delayed at least til tomorrow as they argue over religious protections," Associated Press, Monday, 2011-JUN-20, at:
  10. "Action alert: New York: Facebook ThisTweet[sic] ThisEmail[sic] This" National Organization for Marriage, 2011-JUN-20.
  11. "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, 2011-JUN-22.
  12. Michael Hill, "NY gay-marriage talks hinge on religious rights," Associated Press, 2011-JUN-22, at:
  13. Dan Weissner, "New York gay marriage vote hinges on handful of Republicans," Reuters, 2011-JUN-17, at:

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-JUN-17
Latest update: 2011-JUN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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