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 Christine Quinn.

“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