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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York

2009-SEP to DEC: Senate defeats bill.
Poll shows majority of public support SSM.

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Sponsored link.

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2009-SEP: Special session of the Senate:

There were rumors that Governor David Paterson (D) would call a special session of the Senate near the end of 2009-SEP in order to consider same-sex marriage.

CitizenLink, a service of Focus on the Family Action -- a fundamentalist Christian social action group -- urged their New York readers to contact their state senators and ask that they vote against the bill. 1

Prior to mid-2009, all of the fundamentalist and other evangelical web sites and news sources that we monitor had all placed the word "marriage" in quotation marks when referring to same-sex marriage. Their motivation appears to be that they wish to denigrate the concept of same-sex marriages as invalid. Also, they typically referred to gay "marriage", or homosexual "marriage" even though many same-sex marriages include one or two bisexuals.

However, a noticeable shift occurred later in that year. In the mailing by CitizenLink, they referred to "same-sex marriage" (without the quotation marks) instead of "gay 'marriage'." Some commentators suggested that with the retirement of founder James Dobson, Focus on the Family was evolving towards a less confrontational stand towards LGBTs.

On SEP-25, we sent CitizenLink an Email requesting clarification whether this was a typo or the result of a policy change. As expected, we received neither a response to our question or an acknowledgement of its receipt.

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2009-NOV-10: Senate vote expected during 2009:

Governor David Paterson had hoped to have the senate vote on the SSM bill early in the week of 2009-NOV-08. However, the Senate got bogged down dealing with a deficit problem. He announced on NOV-10 that the Senate leaders had agreed to a debate and vote on the marriage issue at "... a date not certain between now and the end of the year." He said that he would call another special session of the Senate during the week of 2009-NOV-15 and that marriage equality would be on the roster. 2

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2009-DEC-02: Senate defeats SSM bill:

The Senate finally voted on the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The bill was defeated by a vote of 24 in favor to 38 against. Every Republican voted against the bill, as did a coalition of eight Democrats led by Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., (D-NY 32) an pentecostal pastor. He was the only senator to argue against the bill in the debate. He suggested that the Senate could pass a bill authorizing a voter referendum.

The debate seemed to center upon whether equality or discrimination is a traditional American value. Diaz said:

"The reality is that it has been the Republican Party and their traditional values, and the Republican Party with their moral values, and the Republican Party with their family values, that has been for years and years what has kept the values in this whole nation alive. And now they are being asked to throw away these values. ... Remember your rules, remember your values: remember your family values, traditional values, moral values. Go back to the defense of your traditional values. Join me a Democrat, join me a Hispanic, join me a black, join me a Puerto Rican, and join me in bringing a referendum to the people."

Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-NY 14), President Pro Tempore of the Senate, said that at stake was:

"... an individual's right to feel good about themselves."

Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-NY 34), Deputy Majority Leader, said:

"For the first time, all men and women will be created equal. This law will expand the central American ideal of equality."

Sen. Eric Adams (D-NY 20) compared the banning of same-sex marriage to "reaching back to the most ugliest [sic] period of America," when some states had laws banning interracial marriages. 3

Jeremy Peters of The New York Times found that senators who voted against the bill said that the public was gripped by economic anxiety and were uneasy about marriage equality. Senator Tom Libous, the deputy Republican leader said:

"I just don’t think the majority care too much about it at this time because they’re out of work, they want to see the state reduce spending, and they are having a hard time making ends meet. And I don’t mean to sound callous, but that’s true." 4

Peters wrote:

"Pollsters say that while support generally is building for same-sex marriage, especially as the electorate ages, voters resist when they fear the issue is being pushed too fast." 4

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Is a referendum on SSM possible?

About 30 out of 50 states have established a system of direct citizen initiative. Estimates from various sources range from 27 to 31. Propositions in California are a well known and typical example: An organization submits the text of a proposed referendum to the state government where it is checked for clarity, lack of ambiguity, and constitutionality. Some states have a strict law limiting any one referendum to a single, narrowly defined topic. Some propositions are what we call stealth initiatives: they are promoted and publicized as dealing with a single topic, but in fact are worded with far greater scope. There have been initiatives that were promoted as banning same-sex marriages, but actually restricted the rights of all non-married couples of whatever gender makeup.

If approved, the group collects signatures from voters who support the proposal. If a sufficient number of signatures are reached, the measure is automatically placed on the ballot at the next November general election. If 50% of the voters plus one favor the referendum, then it has the same status as a law passed by the legislature.

One positive feature of citizen initiatives is that voters are able to bypass the legislature and create legislation that the lawmakers are either too frightened to touch, or are reluctant to pass because their votes have been previously sold to lobbyists. One negative feature of citizen initiatives is that any group in society who have fallen out of favor -- like followers of a small religion, secularists, sex-workers, or any other minority can have their human rights restricted by a simple majority vote.

During 2009, New York State did not have a system for citizen initiatives. However, the legislature could conceivably approve an informal, non-binding referendum to be added to the ballot. However, the result would only have the effect of a public opinion poll.

In mid-2011, the New York Senate passed a bill that would create citizen initiatives.

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The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) mounts an effective campaign:

Brian Brown of NOM -- an agency that opposes marriage for same-sex couples -- discussed the tactics involved in his group's religiously motivated battle against equality in New York State:

"NOM was able to put out an enormous effort. We spent more than $600,000 using sophisticated technology that allows us to reach out to voters across the state to make sure they knew what their politicians were up to. ..."

"State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (Democrat, of Queens) told the New York Daily News about why he ended up voting 'no': 'Addabbo said he was simply following what 74% of constituents who contacted him wanted'."

"That's right. In New York City, 74 percent of the constituents who wrote or called Sen. Addabbo said: "We want you to vote no to gay marriage." Together we can make a difference. ..."

"If you leave marriage to the politicians or the judges, the political insiders will cut themselves deals that leave your values on the outside. But we at NOM promise: We will not let that happen. We will never give up fighting for the truth, for common sense, for democracy, for civility, for the idea that we are made male and female, and meant to come together in love in marriage, for life."

"God bless you! Until next week." 5

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2009-DEC-02: Poll shows strong support for SSM:

The Marist Poll released polling data on the same day as the Senate vote. It indicates strong majority support for same-sex marriage in the state. There is a 9 percentage point spread between those who favor and those who oppose SSM:

Voters Favor SSM Oppose SSM Unsure & no response
All registered voters 51% 42% 7%
  Democrats 66% 29% 6%
  Republicans 31% 62% 8%
  Independents 51% 41% 8%
    Men 45% 50% 5%
    Women 58% 34% 8%

As usual, Democrats, Independents, women and younger adults support SSM while Republicans, the elderly and men are opposed. However, the margins seem to be larger in this state than elsewhere.

N = 805; The margin of error is ±3.5% 6,7

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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. "Special Alert," CitizenLink, 2009-SEP-25.
  2. James Tillman, "NY Gay 'Marriage' Vote Delayed, but Senate Will Vote Before Year's End," LifeSiteNews Email report, 2009-NOV-11.
  3. "NY Senate Hands Gay Activists Crushing Defeat..." Life Site News, 2009-DEC-02, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  4. Brian Brown, "National marriage news," National Organization for Marriage mailing, 2009-DEC-04.
  5. "Same-Sex Marriage in New York State," Marist Poll, 2009-DEC-02, at: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/
  6. Polling data from Marist Poll: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/
  7. Jeremy W. Peters, New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill", New York Times, 2009-DEC-02, at: http://www.nytimes.com/

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Second segment copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-JUN-14
Latest update: 2011-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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