Wednesday, The New York Times ran what can only be described as an encouraging article on the movement to push the marriage equality bill forward in Albany. It appears, with the full support of our deliriously popular Governor, forces are convening to create a real multi-pronged effort.
Governor Cuomo's office seems to be taking real ownership of the bill and that's a good thing. It describes efforts to form a coaltion of four major LGBT rights groups, the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and Marriage Equality New York, to coordinate actions and strategies. The group is called “New Yorkers United for Marriage.” Special emphasis on outreach will be made to labor, clergy and people of color.
Thursday news arrived a fifth group had signed on, Log Cabin Republicans. This is good news, as absent GOP votes in the Senate the effort is dead. It really is better those Senators hear from people with a sincere desire to vote and support them, wouldn't you say?
Meawhile the Advocate took a less encouraging look at the forces in play to stop it, saying “Game On.”
I've assembled some contact information and some hopefully helpful talking points after the fold.
“In This Economy…”
In fact, LGBT New Yorkers have access to marriage equality of sorts. The state of New York recognizes LGBT unions performed in other jurisdictions. Governor Paterson directed his agencies to do that back in 2008. So, it's important to note that. It's more of an evolution, than a revolution. New Yorkers are surrounded already by happily (and not so happily) legally married LGBT couples. Viewed in that light, the state's inability to actually perform these ceremonies is just pure foolishness. In my social circle alone, I knew of two couples that dropped a bundle in Connecticut to get hitched there. Provincetown, Boston, New Hampshire, Washington DC, these are just some of the other attractive options that just a short trip away.
In this economy, it seems very foolish of the state to deprive our own local industries, including venues, caterers, florists, photographers, the opportunity to compete for those wedding dollars. And I'm rather sure we'd see a surge in the 6-12 months post-passage of long-term couples that decided, “now's the time.” It could give a substantial bump in the wedding industry. I certainly hope the industry lobbyists are, shall we say, engaged in this fight.
It Isn’t 2009 anymore.
There has been a lot of water under the marriage equality bridge since the vote failed in 2009. We have seen California's Proposition 8 get struck down in Federal Court as unconstitutional. We have seen the Defense of Marriage Act get struck down in Federal Court as unconstitutional. And in the time since, the Obama administration's Department of Justice has agreed, denying marital equity is unconstitutional.
The denial of LGBT's right to marry has turned a very sharp corner in the last 2 years in the public view. The Vice-President of the United States has called marriage equality “inevitable.” Polling guru Nate Silver examines the polling and finds four credible national polls showing an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage. These polls are only going upward. Every Senator that votes has the opportunity to be remembered fondly or in infamy by history.
It Isn’t Just The City.
Those polls, it isn't just the city. The latest poll showed 58% of New York state residents support marriage equality and merely 36% opposed. (Siena College, PDF) They didn't break out the City stats this time, but I noticed last time, New York City residents, actually polled 1% lower than the state average. What this tells us is the idea of marriage equality is not just the fanciful flight of some Starbuck's swilling Upper West Side liberals, but a mainstream view, held across the state, including Long Island and Upstate. We shamefully don't have any Long Island Senators on record yet, and that should really not be the case.
We'll have to shore up the Democrats. We need their votes and we don't need Republicans using Democrats as political cover again this time. Senators who voted no in 2009 and have announced no position change include:
Albany Phone: (518) 455-2322 District Phone: (718) 738-1111
District 15 (Queens, NYC)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-3531 District Phone: (718) 523-3069
District 10 (Queens, NYC)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-2460 District Phone: (718) 743-8610
District 27 (Brooklyn, NYC)
• Impress on him the importance of LGBT citizens having the privilege of spousal immunity in court. He'll be feel sympathetic to that. I snark. Please, don't say that.
Of course there's also the good Reverend Ruben Diaz, but he seems determined to be remembered as a 21st Century George Wallace on this issue. You can call to give him the raspberries, I wouldn't hold out much hope of seeing a turnaround on him. I doubt he'd listen to Jesus Christ himself if he came down from the clouds and told him to vote yes.
This ain't going nowhere without at least 3 GOP votes in the Senate. It isn't as unlikely as it may sound, we did get five GOP votes in the Assembly in 2009. And it is said, there were GOP Senators ready to vote yes in 2009, but didn't when the Democr
atic caucus whiffed. Based on the website photos a number of these Senators appear rather young (by political standards), so it's likely their concerns are more political than personal.
I have assembled some names of some Republican Senators. It has been said by some sources that these folks may be persuadable. And if it's true they are persuadable, it would do well for activists not to write them off, but rather, engage them as fully as possible. Let's remember, they represent the whole district, not just their Republican supporters.
One of them is Andrew Lanza in Staten Island. I remember in 2009, when his colleague from Staten Island Diane Savino drew national attention for her marriage equality speech.
Savino literally captivated people across the country. (How many State Senators have a YouTube video with a half a million hits?) It's hilarious and 100% New York City-style straight-talk. I remember reading even on progressive blogs people saying Staten Island voters would make her pay for her liberal views and vote. I had an occasion recently to ask her if the issue came up in her last election, and she, quite literally, laughed in my face. Savino ran unopposed in 2010. Again and again we see, the sky–electoral or otherwise–stubbornly refusing to fall on this issue.
District 55 (Rochester area)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-2015 District Phone: (585) 223-1800
• Alesi was speculated as a yes vote in 2009. Someone posted a video on YouTube that purports to show the Senator “agonizing” as he to casts a no vote in 2009. He really doesn't seem to be very happy about it.
District 40 Westchester (Putnam Valley area)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-3215 District Phone: (718) 984-4073
• Capitol Confidential, May 2009: Greg Ball assails 'Don't ask, don't tell.' The veteran called for a moratorium on DADT discharges.
District 2 Smithtown (Long Island)
Albany Phone: 518-455-2071 District Phone: 631-361-2154
• In 2006, Flanagan helped the LGBT community secure a $60,000 grant for the Anti-Violence Project, to address gay hate crime.
District 59 upstate (Buffalo area)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-2909 District Phone: (585) 225-3650
• I've seen Gallivan described as a “Tea Party” candidate. Hmmm… Perhaps the fiscal variety?
District 60 (Buffalo, Niagara Falls)
Albany Phone: 518-455-3240 District Phone: 716-854-8705
•Expressed support for civil unions but unfortunately, Grisanti seems confused about the difference between marriage as a religious sacrament and a civil contract. This could be a very good bill for the local economy of his district. Currently, LGBT couples can cross the border to Niagara Falls, Canada and get a marriage license to bring home to NY. And I'm sure many do. How many would prefer to be wed in the state and country they call home? How can he not want his own constituents to get paid instead of those darn Canadians taking our gay dollars?
On the hit TV show “The Office,” Jim and Pam got married at Niagara Falls, NY. Jim and Sam can't do that.
District 24 (Staten Island)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-3215 District Phone: (518) 455-2909
• Ask Diane Savino, she'll tell you the electoral water is just fine in Staten Island.
Albany Phone: (518) 455-3121 District Phone: (631) 696-6900
District 1 (Long Island, Hamptons)
• How can a “no” vote come from the fabulous Hamptons? Paging Martha Stewart! Gay marriage, it's a Good Thing™. How about a dinner party? Light on the béarnaise, heavy on the arm twisting. Calvin Klein? Can you do something useful for your fellow gays just this once? I'll tell Michael Musto to leave you alone.
District 7 (Long Island)
Albany Phone: 518-455-3265 District Phone: 516-746-5924
• Seriously, Long Island. You disappoint me. How about you guys just tease your own hair for a while? You can do better.
District 43 (Albany area)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-2381 District Phone: (518) 274-4616
• A speculative yes last time, McDonald wouldn't rule out a “yes” vote the night before.
District 53, upstate
Albany Phone: 518-455-2091 District Phone: 607-735-9671
• New face. Voted no in the Assembly in 2009. Probably not a hot prospect.
District 56, upstate (Rochester area)
Albany Phone: (518) 455-2909 District Phone: (585) 225-3650
• 2009: “I support civil unions. Have for 10 years.” Let's talk about evolution. Civil marriage is a civil union (hint: your Church can still say no).
If I didn't include your Senator's information, the main Senate site is here. It can direct you to your Senator if you don't know who that is (it's fine).
Don't forget your Assembly person. It's passed three times, but we don't need a repeat of Maryland. The Assembly site is here.
A day to rally in Albany for
equality and justice is scheduled for May 9. It will be the coordinated effort by many groups. New York Civil Liberties Union is sponsoring a bus, info here. Marriage Equality New York will also arrange bus transportation. MENY also has a gala fundraiser coming up on May 19. But lest you fret this group is only interested in sipping Chardonnay and nibbling brie, I'd direct you to their action page and calendar page which is chocked full of local grassroots voter-engagement events around the state.