The issue: Is New York's
newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand a serious gay marriage
backer, “evolved” on the issue as her supporters like to say, or
have we just been sold another bill of goods?
“I will strive for marriage
equality,” were the first words on the issue uttered by Hillary
Clinton's replacement as Senator as she shared the podium with New
York Governor David Patterson.
Jaws dropped back in upstate New York
where she had campaigned on a nearly Republican platform of God, guns
and taxes – she quickly dropped the guns too.
According to the New York Observer
Patterson insisted she jump though the gay marriage hoop. The
paper is reporting that aides to the governor informed Gillibrand
that gay approval was a prerequisite for the appointment.
The night before her appointment,
Gillibrand spoke with Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director
Alan Van Capelle and openly lesbian New York City Council Speaker
“I want to start off by saying that
I'm in favor of marriage equality,” Gillibrand started her
conversation with Van Capelle.
A Quinn spokeswoman called a
conversation between the speaker and Gillibrand “productive.”
And on the day of the appointment, Van
Capelle issued a firm backing. “After talking to Kirsten
Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have
its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex
couples,” he said in a statement.
Gay rights groups lined up to offer
their endorsements, despite knowing that Gillibrand's scorecard with
the Human Rights Campaign on issues such as gay marriage was one of
the lowest of all of New York's Democratic representatives.
In a scathing editorial, the New
York Post said “Gillibrand's metamorphosis has been so swift,
and so effortless, that it's necessary to wonder whether she holds
any convictions at all.”
And New York state Senator Ruben Diaz –
the man widely believed to be the mastermind puppeteer behind the
so-called gang of three who withheld their support from Senator
Malcolm Smith to lead the chamber because he supports gay marriage –
asked: “Is she for real?”
“Her constituents re-elected her
because, as a member of Congress, she maintained opposition to
homosexual marriage,” Diaz said in a statement. “Upon
appointment to the U.S. Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand declared her
support for gay marriage. Senator Gillibrand's sudden change of
heart on core issues have left many wondering, “Is she for real?”
Recently, Smith, who eventually
wrestled control of the Senate, announced that despite a Democratic
majority, there was insufficient support for a gay marriage bill.
That is, several Democratic Senators – read Diaz and company –
were not on board with bringing gay marriage to the Empire State.
That left Patterson, who has earned
enormous support championing for gay marriage, politically wounded,
and in the awkward position of asking Gillibrand to jump through the
gay marriage hoop. Gillibrand's about face on gay rights issues is
either a down payment on gay marriage from the governor or a
concession prize won at the county fair.
Did Gillibrand knuckle under or is her
endorsement sincere? We're about to find out as Congress prepares to
debate several contentious gay rights issues including the Matthew
Shepard hate crime bill.
The Gay Slant is a weekly feature of On
Top Magazine. Walter Weeks is a writer for On Top and can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.