Flanked by powerful political allies –
including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and openly lesbian
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – New York Governor
David Paterson announced plans to introduce a gay marriage bill in
the General Assembly.
Calling gay marriage a civil rights
issue, Paterson, a Democrat, said he would re-introduce a gay
marriage bill in Albany.
“I'm introducing a bill to bring
marriage equality to the state of New York,” Paterson said to
applause at a press conference in Manhattan this morning.
“I understand the trepidation and
anxiety that people are feeling today. Rights should not be stifled
by fear. What we should understand is that silence should not be a
response to injustice. There is no gain without struggle. And that
if we take no action, we will surely lose,” he said.
With approval ratings below 20 percent,
the governor's gamble with gay rights comes on the heels of two gay
marriage victories. Legislators in Vermont managed to override
Governor Jim Douglas' promised veto on a gay marriage bill, making
the inventor of civil unions for gay and lesbian couples the first
state to endorse gay marriage legislatively,
instead of by court order. And the seven-member Iowa Supreme Court
unanimously struck down that state's gay marriage ban on April 3.
The two victories effectively double the number of states offering
gay marriage in the U.S.
“This is the most thrilling press
conference I've ever been in,” Quinn told reporters. “We now
have the governor of our state not saying 'I'm for this', which would
be great, [but saying] 'I'm going to make this happen and 'I'm going
to make it happen soon'.”
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of
Empire State Pride Agenda, a group that lobbies for gay marriage in
New York, called Paterson the nation's most “effective and powerful
advocate” on gay marriage.
But it might have been Van Capelle's
remarks soon after Vermont's groundbreaking override veto that
stirred the gay marriage pot in New York.
“We are thrilled that Vermont –
another one of New York's neighbors – has passed a marriage
equality bill through the state legislature,” Van Capelle said in a
statement. “But I'm embarrassed for New York state.”
“We hope that our state Senate in New
York will now look at three of the states that surround New York –
Massachusetts, Connecticut and now Vermont – and realize that we
are falling behind,” he added.
The next day, Paterson began talking
about re-introducing a gay marriage bill. It is the same bill
Assembly members approved and Republican Senate leaders blocked in
Democrats now lead in the Senate, but
support remains unclear. State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A.
Smith, a Democrat and gay marriage supporter, admitted during a Human
Rights Campaign fundraiser in February that he does not have the
votes to pass gay marriage in the Empire State. And Senator Ruben
Diaz, a Democrat from the Bronx and a gay marriage opponent, has
already begun meeting with gay marriage opponents and religious
leaders to discuss how to thwart passage of gay marriage in New York.