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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York

2009 bill passed by the Assembly

Sponsored link.

Will the Legislature pass the bill this time?

The previous governor, Eliot Spitzer, introduced a similar bill in 2007. It was passed by the Assembly on a vote of 85 to 61 (58% support), but died in the Senate and thus did not proceed.

The new bill was also expected to pass the Assembly easily. Although there is increasing support in the Senate, it may be difficult to find the necessary 32 votes to pass the bill at this time. All or essentially all of the Republicans are expected to vote against the bill. There are only 32 Democrats in the Senate and one of them, Ruben Diaz Sr., has announced that he plans to oppose the measure.

Alan Van Capelle, head of Empire State Pride Agenda said: "We are closer than many people think, and we are not there yet."

According to the New York Daily News, "Senate insiders put the number of "yes" votes at about 27 or 28  -- four or five votes short.

The National Organization for Marriage, a misnamed group that supports opposite-sex marriage while opposing same-sex marriage, started a $1.5 million ad campaign in New York and other states that are considering marriage equality. 1

A poll by the Siena College Research Institute sampled public support for SSM in New York state. They detected a significant rise in support over the past few years:

bullet2007 poll: 43% support
bullet2008 poll: 46% support
bullet2009 poll: 53% support. 2

This is an unusually rapid increase. The previous major re-definition of marriage occurred in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage throughout the U.S. in its famous and ironically named case Loving v. Virginia. 3 From 1948, when 90% of American adults opposed inter-racial marriages, to 1991 when the majority of Americans supported such marriages by a slim majority for the first time, the rate of change of support was a little less than 1 percentage point per year. The Institute poll on SSM in New York showed 5 percentage point change per year between 2007 and 2009. 

A similar jump in support was detected by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute among New Jersey adults.

2009-APR-22: Governor agrees with Malcolm Smith over SSM bill:

A minor split was materializing within Democratic ranks over the SSM bill announced by Governor David Paterson (D). He was keen on pushing the bill so that it would be debated in the Senate even if it ultimately failed to pass. As noted above, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, (D-Queens), said that he will not schedule a vote until it has enough support to pass.

Patterson decided to follow Senator Smith's lead, saying:

"On this particular bill, there are a lot of other issues related to it. Senator Smith knows the inertia of the Senate better than anyone else ... I'll stick with his final judgment."

Also on APR-22, two additional major New York papers -- the Post-Standard and the Press Republican -- had editorials that supported SSM. The editors of the Press Republican wrote:

"Same-sex marriage is a civil-rights issue, and on that, the government has only one choice: to come down heavily in favor of the civil rights of everyone." 4

2009-MAY-12: Bill passed by the Assembly:

The bill was scheduled to be considered by the Assembly on 2009-MAY-12. It passed  the Assembly late that evening by a vote of 89 to 54. This is 62% in favor -- an increase of four percentage points since 2007). 5 Included among the positive votes were 84 Democrats and five Republicans.

Four Assembly members who had voted "no" to the 2007 SSM bill reversed their vote this time. They included:

bulletFred W. Thiele (R, Hamptons) said: "There's that little voice inside of you that tells you when you've done something right, and when you've done something wrong. That ["no"] vote just never felt right to me. That little voice kept gnawing away at me."
bulletBob Reilly (D-Saratoga & Albany) apologized to fellow members for voting no in 2007. He supported the bill this time. 6
bulletJanet L. Duprey (R-114 Assembly District) was persuaded to switch by a lesbian couple who lived on her block. She said: "They are asking only for equal protection under the law. They deserve no less than to have the same rights and ability to share their love." 7

Lobbyists for two conservative Christian groups who want to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples -- New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and the Alliance Defense Fund -- unsuccessfully pressured undecided Assembly members to vote no.

Republican Party officials promised retaliation against members who voted for the bill. According to the New York Times, the party threatened "... to strip its party affiliation and its ballot line from any politician who votes for same-sex marriage." This surprised many observers who had believed that Republican members of the Assembly would be allowed to vote on this bill freely, according to their conscience. Jeff Cook had written a story for the 2009-APR-21 issue of The Advocate that proved to be invalid. He said:

"Republicans realize that marriage equality is inevitable in New York and they do not want to vote against this. 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." 7

Daniel J. O'Donnell, (D-NYC upper west side) led the effort in the Assembly to pass the bill. He said:

"The margin of victory and the balance of where the people come from who voted for this is broadening. The state is demanding that we provide [marriage] equality, and that's the message here." 6

Richard L. Brodsky (D-Westchester) said:

"We do nothing revolutionary or extraordinary today." 6

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a group that advocates SSM said:

"Thanks to the Assembly's leadership on this issue, we are one step away from winning marriage equality in New York." 7

Actually, he is wrong. They are two steps away. They need the bill to be passed by the Senate, and signed into law by the Governor. The latter should be no problem, because the Governor sponsored the bill. The former might prove to be a very difficult battle.

A group of gay-positive groups sponsored a series of TV ads starting on MAY-13. The first ad that was shown featured a woman from Cicero NY. She has two daughters -- one straight and one lesbian. She says that all she wants is for them to be treated equally under the law. Alan Van Capelle said:

"This is about putting a face on the people who are affected by this. Marriage equality should not be a political issue. It is too important; it affects too many people." 6

There are reports in the media that Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith will delay introducing the bill to the Senate, if necessary, until he is certain that it has at least the 32 "yes" votes to pass.

References used:

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

  1. David Saltonstall, "Gay marriage vote in New York state Senate near after Iowa, Vermont?," Daily News, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/
  2. "Gay marriage support jumps in New Jersey," On Top Magazine, 2009-APR-23, at: http://ontopmag.com/
  3. John Rogers, "Kung Fu Monkey" blog, 2005-MAR-16, at: http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/
  4. "Paterson To Soft-Pedal Gay Marriage," On Top Magazine, 2009-APR-23, at: http://ontopmag.com/
  5. "Gay marriage passes, senate battle is next," Canada.com, 2009-MAY-13, at: http://www.canada.com/
  6. Jeremy W. Peters, "N.Y. Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill," New York Times, 2009-MAY-13, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  7. Carlos Santoscoy, "New York Assembly Approves Gay Marriage Bill," On Top Magazine, 2009-MAY-13, at: http://www.ontopmag.com/

Site navigation:

 Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > NY > here

Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-APR-15
Latest update: 2009-MAY-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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