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Will Dean Skelos allow New York to have marriage equality?

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2011

Yesterday the New York Assembly voted 80 to 63 to give same-sex couples the same access to state rights, responsibilities, and obligations of marriage as it allows its citizens in opposite sex relationships (15 Democrats voted “no” and 3 Republicans voted “yes”).

Currently there are 31 of the state’s 62 senators who have pledged their support for the marriage equality bill. Only one Democrat (Pentecostal minister Ruben Diaz) is opposed, two Republicans have indicated support and at least four more are “undecided”.

And the media is all ablaze with the entirely wrong question.

They are breathlessly wondering whether a necessary third Republican Senator can be found to vote for marriage equality. But those who seem most situated to know seem to agree that more than one of the “undecided” will vote favorably on the bill. That isn’t the question, and none of the undecided will make the decision as to whether marriage equality will come to New York.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will be the person who decides if marriage equality will be achieved.

In the New York Senate, the Majority Leader holds tremendous power. He can singly block a piece of legislation by refusing to schedule a vote. The votes may be there, but they won’t be counted unless he says so.

Skelos has said that he will defer to the will of the Republican caucus. If his Senators want a vote, he’ll have one, if they don’t he won’t. And for the past two days they have been caucusing, only to announce that they have no decision. They will meet again tomorrow.

But this too is a bit less democratic than it might seem. A party leader can, in many circumstances, inform his caucus that they need to rally around and support his decision.

Much of the decision as to whether the New York State Senate will vote on, and pass, the marriage equality bill will be based on whether Skelos determines that allowing the bill will be less politically damaging than blocking the bill.

If he allows a vote, some of the Party’s “base” will blame him and other senators for not serving the conservative cause. But in a state where marriage is popular, and rapidly becoming more so, blocking the vote could ring a sour note with the voters and leave them with the image of an obstructionist party. And a good many people who are not all that vested one way or the other are sympathetic to the complaint, “They wouldn’t even let me vote!”

And to complicate matters more, the largest donors to Republicans in the State of New York are decidedly on the side of equality. Mayor Bloomberg, the single largest contributor to Republicans in the state, has been applying pressure, and other contributors have been showing where their alliances fall through financial support for the legal team seeking to overturn Proposition 8.

AT some point tomorrow Dean Skelos will announce the decision that he believes will best continue the Republican control of the Senate, and his leadership there.

It is, of course, only a guess but I think that the winds are blowing in our favor. Skelos can step out of a caucus tomorrow and announce that a majority felt the need to vote on the matter. No one will know who to blame, and each can say “but I voted no.” The sophisticated contributor will know that this decision allowed marriage equality to come to pass, and the less so can be comforted by knowing that their own Senator stood for the good ol’ values they sent him there to support.

Comments

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Bruno
June 16th, 2011 | LINK

The news tonight has been that the bloc of undecideds (apparently Lanza, Saland, and possibly others) are demanding further religious exemptions in the bill. Whether or not these go as far as Greg Ball’s public demands, and whether or not Cuomo compromises on them, it appears that the floor vote is likely attached to this bloc of Republican voters’ decision on the matter. If they were to come out and say “we are yes votes,” I don’t see how Skelos could keep it from the floor.

Bryan
June 16th, 2011 | LINK

Wow, 15 Democrats voted no? That really bugs me

TomTallis
June 16th, 2011 | LINK

I suspect that they will vote. The hemming and hawing are for the benefit of their lunatic base. Whether or not it passes, is another matter, entirely.

daftpunkydavid
June 16th, 2011 | LINK

also please keep in mind there are other issues that are being deliberated in the legislature (like rent control and property tax cap) which both democrats and republicans are using to bargain. i have had my heart crushed multiple times with my new york senators, so i can’t say i’m optimistic.

Ryan
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

Looks like this will be pushed to next week, at the very least. It’s unfortunate that 2010 went so strongly Republican. Elections have consequences. Ultimately, I doubt very much this will come to a vote, but equally very much hope I’m wrong.

Timothy (TRiG)
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

The donors. The power of the donors.

Ever thought of trying democracy, America? It’s this cool idea you might have heard of.

TRiG.

Matt
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

“It’s unfortunate that 2010 went so strongly Republican. Elections have consequences.”

Ryan, the bill is closer to passing this year than it was two years ago, when Democrats had more seats in the NY State Senate.

In Maryland and Rhode Island, where marriage equality bills went down, the Democrats enjoy majorities or supermajorities in the legislatures.

Can you explain your point? Or was it just partisan hackery?

Mike
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

@Bryan – There are a number of “conservative” but Dem held districts in NY. We already know about Diaz’s senate district but there’s several upstate, and especially in the more ultra-orthodox Jewish areas of Queens and Brooklyn.

customartist
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

Gays must step up and provide the backing for Sen. Alesi and other
supportive Republican Senators who are being threatened by the Republican Party and NOM. Although I do not live in NY, I am making a contribution to Alesi today.

http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/james-s-alesi/contact

So long as the vast majority of Republican Politicians opppose Equal Rights, then this is indeed a Partisan issue.

If Republicans perpetuate inequality, then this will not be forgotten for decades to come.

Tell Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos(R) to “Allow the vote” on Marriage Equality.

(518) 455-3171

Undecided NY Legislators’ Phone Numbers:

Stephen Saland 845-463-0840

Roy McDonald 518-274-4616

Andrew Lanza 718-984-4073

Greg Ball 845-279-3773

Kemp Hannon 516-739-1700

Bette Little 518-742-0968

Bruno
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

@TomTallis: I’m like 90% sure that if this is brought to a vote, it will be with the understanding that it passes. The sticking point are religious exemptions, and the GOP is holding back calling for a vote until if and when that’s cleared up. Right now Cuomo is working with Catholic lawyers on the language of the bill…we’ll see if they can come up with something acceptable to both sides.

Ryan
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

@Matt –all but 1 Democrat has pledged to vote for marriage equality. Only two Republicans have done so. Every gay rights vote that’s ever happened in this country has been heavily supported by democrats and heavily opposed by Repubs. Facts are facts. In the majority of cases, a vote for a Republican is a vote against gay rights.

Timothy Kincaid
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

Ryan,

I’d caution against thinking of gay rights in too partisan of a manner.

It is true that Democrats, as a whole, are far far more supportive of gay rights than Republicans. And it is true that every gay rights vote has been heavily supported by Democrats and heavily opposed by Republicans.

However, it is also true that there are very few pro-gay votes that passed without requiring (and getting) a few Republican supporters.

Generally (though not always) Democratic supermajorities DO NOT vote for marriage equality. They don’t have to. It’s when the parties are fairly even and have to compete that we make advances.

So while it is true that Democrats in general are more supportive than Republicans in general, the reality is far more nuanced than a Democrat=good, Republican=bad way of thinking.

Matt
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

Facts are facts.

Yes, and I corrected you. You were wrong in this specific instance. You then try to elide that by changing the subject to a general observation.

In the majority of cases, a vote for a Republican is a vote against gay rights.

When did I say otherwise? It’s possible for that to be true and, simultaneously, for it to be true that acting like Democratic party hacks is not the best way to achieve gay marriage. The Human Rights Campaign is arguably the least effective lobbying organization in Washington because their mindset is similar to the one indicated by your comments.

During the period when Dems controlled the presidency, House, and Senate (with a filibuster-proof majority for a bit there) we got the hate-crimes law, which is a bad law in the first place, is a fake issue mostly important to HRC as a fundraising tool, and which, over a year after its passage, has NEVER ONCE been utilized (NOBODY has ever been prosecuted under it, let alone convicted). We didn’t get repeal of DADT until after the election in 2010 and until people who are not Democratic bots and hacks made a big stink about it.

You understand neither politics nor culture, Ryan, and a big part of our problem is that too many people think the way you do.

Ryan
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

@Matt,
Who are “the people who are not Democratic bots and hacks” you speak of who made a big stink about it? I only saw Democrats making any stink at all, other than Susan Collins.

And I was not wrong at all. If there were a couple more Democrats in office right now, and a couple less Republicans, the chances would be much greater that the Marriage Equality bill would pass. To say it’s “closer” now is pretty meaningless. Only four of the eight Democrats who voted against the bill last time are still in office, and three of the four remaining changed their minds. Whether it was a legitimate change of heart, or a political calculation, who knows? The point is that it is politically feasible for a Democrat to vote for gay marriage and politically risky for a Republican to do so. Ergo, the more Democrats the better the chances for gay rights.

Timothy, you make a good point about supermajorities, I have to say. Though I think probably a state with nearly all democrats have plenty of “blue dogs” with conservative constituents who are for all intents and purposes Republican-lite.

jcrr
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

The vote stalled, Skelos is saying no vote today and there’s only one day until the end of legislative session; the Assembly would have to pass it again with the new religious exemptions and there’s not enough time.

Mark F.
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

Sure there’s time. The Senate passes a new version on Monday and the Assembly stays in session and immediately votes to pass the new law.

enough already
June 17th, 2011 | LINK

Matt,
While I understand what you are saying, the way you say it is absolutely guaranteed to cause Ryan – and me – to knee-jerk disagree with you.
Is that your goal?

For someone who is arguing that we have to stop applying stereotypes of “bad” and “good” to Republicans and Democrats, you certainly are indulging quite heavily in exactly the sort of tactics of alienation which you otherwise decry.

Oh, and just for the record: I’d love to hear your defense of how wonderfully supportive Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas are and how they are just like the Democratic appointments among the Supremes….well, give it the old college try, it ought to make for some enjoyable parsing.

Priya Lynn
June 18th, 2011 | LINK

Republicans bad, Democrats good.

customartist
June 18th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy,

Let’s tweek the statement then:

A vote for a Republican is a vote (much more more likely than not) against gay rights.

H’bout that?

Mark F.
June 19th, 2011 | LINK

“I’d love to hear your defense of how wonderfully supportive Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas are…”

I’m not aware that either Roberts or Alito have issued an opinion yet in any gay related case since they have been on SCOTUS. Thomas voted to uphold sodomy laws as constitutional, but he said they were “silly” and he would have voted against them as a state legislator.

We should give credit where credit is due, I should think. Democrats are more supportive of gay rights in general, but there are a number of Republicans who are gay positive. And DADT repeal would not have passed w/o non-Democrats Collins and Lieberman pushing it. Currently we need GOP votes in NY.

Priya Lynn
June 20th, 2011 | LINK

Mark said “Thomas voted to uphold sodomy laws as constitutional, but he said they were “silly” and he would have voted against them as a state legislator.

We should give credit where credit is due…”.

No credit is due to Thomas. He still voted to uphold sodomy laws, then calling them silly doesn’t in any way absolve him of guilt for the damage he tried to cause or make him not anti-gay.

Priya Lynn
June 20th, 2011 | LINK

I forgot to add, no credit is due to Roberts or Alito either, if as you say they have never issued an opinion on any gay related case. You’ve set an awfully low bar for determining who deserves credit.

Timothy Kincaid
June 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Currently we need GOP votes in NY.

It’s even a bit more than that.

We need Democrats (and at least three Republicans) to vote for marriage in New York. But the decision to allow marriage to pass will be made entire by Republicans. Skelos will decide. The member of his party will provide cover.

Timothy Kincaid
June 22nd, 2011 | LINK

I forgot to add, no credit is due to Roberts or Alito either, if as you say they have never issued an opinion on any gay related case. You’ve set an awfully low bar for determining who deserves credit.

Gosh. Does Roberts doing pro-bono work in Romer v. Evans to overturn Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2 get credit?

Golly, I’d hate to be all pissy and argumentative if it didn’t.

Priya Lynn
June 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “Gosh. Does Roberts doing pro-bono work in Romer v. Evans to overturn Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2 get credit?”.

You’ll note Timothy I said “IF” they had never issued any opinion’s on gay related cases, which any intelligent person would recognize also applies to “IF” they had done any pro-gay work as well.

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