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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for June, 2011

NY GOP Marriage Supporter May Turn Democrat

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2011

New York statesman and freshman state Senator Mark Grisanti ( (R-Erie and Niagara Co), who eloquently described why he supported that state’s marriage quality law even though he campaigned against in in 2010, is taking withering flack –his local hometown paper describes them as “withering body blows” –from conservatives and fellow members of the Republican party:

Grisanti fared no better with his own party as Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy made clear his disapproval that the senator went his own way on a key issue.

“For Mark to go back on his word that he gave to his constituents and to me — I am deeply disappointed,” Langworthy said.

… Langworthy and Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo were especially critical of his reneging on a promise to vote against the measure while campaigning last year.

“He informed me by text while he was on the floor,” Langworthy said of Grisanti’s Friday vote. “I urged him to stick by his word he had given. The people elected him on what he ran on. This is not tax policy or something. This is important stuff.”

Important stuff — more important to the GOP than the economy.

Got it.

Grisanti now says that he won’t rule out running for re-election as a Democrat, after rejecting the idea following his vote last Friday.

The Politician and the Statesman

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2011

Two New York Senators who had previously opposed marriage equality in New York voted ended up voting for it when the chips were down Friday night. They both explained their change of votes during the roll call, and their explanations provide a textbook illustation of the difference between a politician and a statesman.

One was Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Kings Co) who had been one of three Senate Democrats who blocked a vote on same-sex marriage in 2009 when Democrats controlled the chamber. His change of heart, chronologically at least, came after he was accused last March of accepting $1 million in bribes in return for political favors. Along with that scandal came allegations from the The New York Post — and one must always consider the source whenever the Post is involved — that Kruger laundered at least some of that money through his reportedly unacknowledged gay lover with whom he shares a house with along with the identified lover’s mother. Sidestepping the possible outing, The New York Times merely said, “The gay nephew of the woman he lives with, Dorothy Turano, was so furious at Mr. Kruger for opposing same-sex marriage two years ago that he had cut off contact with both of them, devastating Ms. Turano.”

Whatever the truth may be, Kruger certainly had a change of heart by the time he cast his vote last Friday. And in explaining his vote before the Senate, Kruger defended himself by giving a long list of gay-rights legislation he had supported — hate crimes legislation, anti-dissemination bills, anti-bullying bills — and more incredibly, even tried to explain his change as not being a change at all. He was with us all along, he says. Except, of course, for when he wasn’t.

Oh well, a yes vote is a yes vote, and every yes vote is vital when the margins are so thin like this. But Kruger’s statement was especially memorable because moments before, freshman Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Erie and Niagara Co), who had campaigned against same-sex marriage leading up the the November 2011 elections, explained his vote this way:

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As you may know, prior to me coming here, it’s only been about six months and the issue of same-sex marriage has never been a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Catholic sense of my upbringing. And I have stated that I have a problem with the term “marriage.” But at the same time, I have also said that I have a problem with the rights that are involved that are being overlooked. I have never, in the past four months, researched an issue or met with so many people and groups on a single issue such as this. I have struggled with this immensely, I can tell you that. I have read numerous documents, independent studies, and talked with a lot of people on both sides of this issue. As a Catholic I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

I’m not here however as a Senator who is just Catholic. I’m also here with a background also as an attorney, to which I look at things and I apply reason. I know with this decision, many people who voted for me will question my integrity a short time ago. I tell you though that I have studied this issue. To those who know me, they know that I have struggled with it. To those whose support I may lose, please know that in the past what I was telling you and what I believed at that time was the truth. But by doing the research, and ultimately doing what I believe to be the right thing, to me, shows integrity. I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research with an open mind and make a decision, an informed decision, based on the information before me.

A man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there will be no respect for that man if he has failed in his duty to do the work. I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who am I to day that someone doesn’t have the same rights that I have with my wife that I love, or have the thirteen hundred-plus rights that I share with her?

But there’s another important point here that this bill brings up, and that’s its religious protections. Because I am Catholic. Under this bill the religious aspects and belief are protected as well as for not-for-profits. There’s no mandate that the Catholic Church or any other religious organization perform ceremonies or rent halls. There cannot be a civil claim or an action against the church. It protects benevolent organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and many others. And as a lawyer I feel confident that the religious organizations and the others are protected.

We in this state have recognized same-sex couples who are married in other states and are now in New York. I have read studies about civil unions that show that they do not work, and causes chaos. I believe this state needs to provide equal rights and protection to all of its residents.

I struggled with the word marriage as between a man and a woman — that’s how I’m raised. But I also struggle with the rights that are lacking for same-sex couples, and I’ve stated this numerous times. I cannot deny that right or opportunity for someone nor stand in the way of allowing them to obtain the rights that I have.

I’m not going to get into the philosophical arguments, because I’ve heard them all. But for me, the issue boils down to this: I’ve done the research, and I believe that a person can be wiser today than yesterday. I apologize to those who feel offended, to those I have hurt with the votes that I had six months ago. But I believe you can be wiser today than yesterday when you do the work. I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, of people of my district and across this state, the state of New York and those people who make this the great state that it is, the same rights that I have with my wife…

That is a long, long way from where Grisanti was just last March, when he told a Buffalo radio station, “To me, marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s been a term, a term of ours for years that has been around for thousands of years. It’s like calling a cat, a dog.”

Like I said, every vote is important. Kruger’s “yes” vote, however it came about and however he tried to explain away his prior opposition, is every bit as important as Grisanti’s. But in the end, the events of Friday night clearly showed that there is a huge difference between political posturing and statesmanship.

New York votes

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2011

6:56: The Senate has reconvened.

They are discussing an education bill.

7:02: The education bill passed and they are now making speeches about why they voted for the bill. As best I could tell there was no controversy so this is basically just wasting time for the hope of being quoted in the local paper. (ooops.. still not voted on…. but so far they all seem to love this bill. I’m really not paying it much attention)

[gotta run for a moment... hope I get back before the marriage vote]

7:22: I’m back. They’re still talking about the education bill.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I stand to support/oppose this bill. I wish to repeat exactly what everyone else already said when they stood to get their words down for the papers. I especially want to thank you, Mr. Speaker for your patience in listening to everyone of us ramble on an on, as you and you alone are actually listening.”

7:31 This appears to be Sen. Grisanti’s bill. He is one of the “undecided” votes. I can’t help but wonder …

7:37 And the SUNY bill passes 51 to 11

Moving right on to the Property Tax Cap

7:50: Rent control, property tax caps, and on an on… I know that this is of extreme importance to many New Yorkers so I should be less impatient.

8:08: Sen Diaz has finally said something with which I agree:

Mr. President, tonight is going to be long I believe. And you’ve already noted that some people never agree with me. (he was one of the 11 no votes on the education bill)

8:13: The Catholic Church has weighed in on the concessions that were made on their behalf and at their insistence. As expected, they are as arrogant as always.

“The Bishops of New York State oppose in the strongest possible terms any attempt to redefine the sacred institution of marriage. The matter of religious exemptions has been and continues to be a secondary issue that in no way negates the fact that this bill is bad for society. We urge all Senators to vote no on Governor Cuomo’s bill. Marriage has always been, is now, and always will be the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, life-giving union. Government does not have the authority to change this most basic of truths.”

If those issues are so secondary, Bishops, what say we just remove them?

08:30: They are still talking about what the press is calling The Big Ugly. Everyone seems to be discussing it in terms of not being quite happy but seeing it as a step in the right direction. Which is a bit amusing as many of them seem to be stepping in different directions.

8:35: After all that talk bill passes 57 to 5 (Diaz voted no… let’s hope he remains an albatross)

Moving right along to Livery car tax.

[I'm heading home... Jim will keep and eye on things... I very much doubt that the marriage bill will come up before I get back to you]

[Jim Burroway takes the helm]

9:43: I have no idea what happened to the Livery car tax. Maybe someone can catch us up with that vital bill in the comments. Right now, Sen. Stephen M Saland (R=Columbia County) is explaining the religious exemption provisions that have been added to the marriage bill. His is listed as “undescided.”

9:47: Sen. Saland has just announced that he will vote for the bill! “I have to do the right thing by treating all persons with equality,” including marriage. A very elequent message, and the needed thirty-second vote.

9:50: They are calling the role to accept the amendments, but Sen. Diaz has asked to explain his vote against the bill. He just read the Catholic vote, and calls on other Catholics to vote according to the church.

9:51: Sen. Hannon (R-Nassau Co.) is now explaining his vote. He had been listed as a no vote. But with the religious exemptions that were added along with the inseverability clause, he is also voting yes.

9.53: The amendments are passed! 36-26!

9:55: Now the roll is being called for the bill itself. Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) is speaking against the bill, and is visibly angry with the direction things are going.

9:57: Diaz is “making the Republican party do what the Democrats failed to do when they were in the majority.” The speaker is trying to get Sen. Diaz to hold to his two-minute limit, but Diaz is still speaking. Does he think he can run out the clock?

10:00: Blah, blah, blah… The house speaker is trying to rush him along, and Diaz is only getting more agitated.

10:01: Sen. Diaz is way over his two-minute time limit, and Diaz is still arguing the rule.

10:02: Finally, Sen. Diaz has stopped blabbering and sat down.

10:12: Sen. Thomas K. Duane (D-New York) is now speaking about coming out to his parents. “In the 1980s when people in my community and my neighborhood started of AIDS, if the surviving partner’s name was not on the lease, they got evicted. And I remember going to legal organizations and said they needed help, but they said, no, families will never be recognized.” That led to a state Supreme Court decision protecting non-traditional families. Republicans and Democrats joined together the pass hate crimes legislation and non-discrimination acts. He thanks Gov. Cuomo for his “truthful and strong leadership on this issue.” He also thanks Majority leader Skelos and Minority leader Sampson, and most of all, his partner Lewis. “My nieces and nephews know us as a couple, and we are like married to them…. Marriage says that we are family, Lewis and I are family. And marriage strengthens my family and will strengthen all families.”

10:17: Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Erie and Niagara Co.) was originally listed as undecided. He was originally against same-sex marriage, but after studying the issue has decided to vote for the marriage equality bill. “By doing the research I believe shows integrity. I wouldn’t respect myself if I didn’t do the research and make an informed decision for the issue that is before me. … I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage.” He points to the religious protections in the bill, and feels confident as a Catholic and as a lawyer that the religious institutions are protected. “Civil unions are not equal and cause chaos.” Marriage is the only way to guarantee the rights to same-sex couples that he has. “I apologize to to those who feel offended and were hurt by my votes six months ago, but I do believe someone can be wiser than they were six months ago.”

10:17: They are going into a very brief recess, but right now it looks like that when the roll call results are announced, marriage equality in New York will be a done deal.

10:19: I’m seeing reports that a massive crowd in converging at the Stonewall Inn in New York. Police are trying to keep Christopher Street open to traffic, but it may soon become a lost cause.

10:21: Focus On the Family just now sent out a fundraising appeal to their email list:

While we pray for a resounding victory in New York, Focus on the Family remains committed to upholding marriage and urging men and women to engage the culture in its defense—just as we’ve seen 31 states already uphold marriage at the ballot box. Will you partner with us as we share the importance of protecting God’s design for marriage as well as provide resources to ensure our own marriages—especially those of the household of faith—are healthy and well-rooted in Christ? Please make your gift today.

I guess they haven’t been watching the live stream.

10:26: Senate is back in session. Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Kings Co) is explaining his yes vote. He was one of the no votes in 2009, but explains that the religious exemptions are why he is voting for marriage equality. He is now trying to burnish his pro-gay credentials despite that earlier vote. Oh, well, a yes vote is a yes vote, and when the votes are this close, every vote matters.

10:30: They have announced the results: 33-29. Marriage Equality passed in New York!

The bill will go into effect thirty days after signed by Gov. Cuomo.

[Timothy again]

When I decided to leave for home I assumed we were hours away yet. But traffic was LA Friday night traffic and then my computer decided that it needed to do updates. And then something went wrong and …. well, anyway, I’m here for the celebration.

Congratulations, New Yorkers