Gay activists in New York pressed for a
vote on gay marriage only to see the measure rejected overwhelmingly
on Wednesday. Opponents cheered the defeat, but backers say they got
what they wanted.
Activists had waited patiently for
months for the Senate debate, which suddenly materialized on
Wednesday. With little fanfare, the debate began soon after noon on
the Senate floor and ended two hours later with the death of the bill
in a 38 to 24 vote.
On Thursday, Governor David Paterson
said he would not reintroduce a gay marriage bill unless passage is
“I won't reintroduce the issue unless
I see substantial change in the position of the legislators,”
Paterson said Thursday morning on Rochester-based WHAM-AM.
“The vote was 38-24, that's pretty
“If I saw some change next year, I
would introduce it,” he added.
But change won't likely come until
2011, after New York voters decide on the fate of lawmakers. The
Senate in particular looks to be at risk for returning to Republican
control after several high-profile scandals hit Democrats. If that
happens, then it might be years before the debate returns to Albany.
Opponents of gay marriage welcomed the
vote. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's
most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, called the defeat “a huge
“This is a huge win, it puts the nail
in the coffin on the idea that gay marriage advocates can persuade a
majority of Americans their cause is just,” Brian Brown, executive
director of NOM, said in a statement. “New York makes it crystal
clear: the American people do not support gay marriage and they do
not want their politicians messing with this issue.”
Democrats who favored the bill spoke
passionately during Wednesday's debate. One, Senator Ruth
Hassell-Thompson, said she would vote in favor for the bill to honor
her late brother, who was gay. Others choked up when they spoke
about what the measure would mean to gay family members and friends.
Many said they admired the relationship of Senator Tom Duane, the
bill's sponsor, and his partner.
Disappointed gay rights activists said
the silver lining was found in the public vote.
“We are pleased that the issue of
marriage equality at last was debated in the New York Senate,” Alan
Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, the
state's largest gay rights group, said in a statement.
“We had long called for a public
debate on this matter so we could determine who was truly on our
side. … Now we know where we stand, and where we need to
concentrate our efforts in the future.”
And Van Capelle offered a warning: “To
those senators who do not yet see our families as deserving the same
protections as other families in New York, our message is simple: We
are more committed than ever to this fight. We will redouble our
efforts in your district to ensure that our voice is heard. We know
our cause is just. … If you cannot support us, we will find
candidates for public office who do, and we will work through the
democratic system to effect needed change.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat
from Manhattan, echoed a similar sentiment, saying he was
disappointed but the struggle continues.
“[W]e must remind ourselves that this
is just one battle in a longstanding struggle, and our resolve should
only be strengthened. We will ultimately be vindicated in our march
toward marriage equality, and those who stood on the wrong side of
history will one day regret it,” he said.
But that march has taken some
unexpected detours this fall. Along with New York, gay marriage also
faced defeat in Maine last month when voters “vetoed” a gay
marriage law approved by lawmakers in the spring. And the results
from these two key liberal states are certain to impact lawmakers in
New Jersey who are being pressured to approve a gay marriage bill
before Governor-elect Chris Christie, a gay marriage opponent, takes
office in mid-January.
New Hampshire's gay marriage law opens
on January 1. Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut have
also legalized gay marriage. If Congress does not intervene, gay
marriage could be legal in the District of Columbia as early as