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Posts for July, 2011

New York’s new role

Timothy Kincaid

July 26th, 2011

One of the consequences of marriage equality that doesn’t get much attention in the debate is the way in which it impacts a state’s involvement in lawsuits. And yet, this is no small matter.

States have rights. Constitutionally, our nation has divided its powers between issues of national concern (such as defense) and issues of state autonomy (such as licensing of professionals). Family law, including the criteria for marriage, has been traditionally considered to be the purview of the state while the role of the federal government has been primarily limited in this area to interstate conflicts or civil rights protections.

But the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is an exception. It presumes, in paragraph 3, that the federal government holds veto power over marriage and can – for any matter that impacts any federal program – replace the state’s criteria with its own. If the marriage criteria in Vermont doesn’t meet the approval of the Senator from Alabama or the Congressman from Mississippi, then by securing a bare majority of fellow legislators they can dictate to Vermont which of its citizens can be considered married for Social Security, taxation, and health care, and which are deemed by Alabama and Mississippi to be unworthy.

This encroachment into the territory of the states was likely in violation of the US Constitution from the start. But that didn’t really matter for so long as states were limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. Courts are not receptive to abstract victims or potential loss of theoretical rights; to present your case, you need to be an aggrieved party.

And when New York’s legislature enacted marriage equality, it became an aggrieved party. Having authorized same-sex marriages, the state not only assumed the burden of protecting these marriages, but became itself a victim of federal infringement through DOMA3, and assumed the burden of protecting itself.

Actually, New York is a bit unusual in that the state recognized – though through legal interpretation rather than legislation or judicial determination – out-of-state same-sex marriages prior to their vote. So there has been, for some time, a theoretical right (though perhaps not obligation) to protect such couples as were abiding in the state but married elsewhere. But the vote removed any ambiguity; marriage equality is now the public policy and interest of the state.

And so, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has begun to defend the state’s interests. In an amicus brief (pfd) filed in the case of Windsor v. United States, in which a widow was denied tax provisions granted to heterosexual widows, he said:

By refusing to recognize for federal purposes marriages that are valid under state law, DOMA intrudes on matters historically within the control of the States, and undermines and denigrates New York’s law designed to ensure equality of same-sex and different-sex married couples. Thus DOMA threatens basic principles of federalism. Moreover, it classifies and determines access to rights, benefits, and protections based on sexual orientation, and also based on sex.

Schneiderman’s also objects to the discrimination of New Yorkers on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, and those objections are important. That is an obligation of a state and the brief is valuable in that matter. But Windsor’s lawyers can defend her interests and do so competently.

Where Schneiderman’s argument is invaluable is where it is unique, it’s defense of its own interests.

But DOMA departs from the tradition of federal respect for the States’ definition of marriage, flatly rejecting the definition of marriage in New York and five other States and thereby elevating the choices of some States above those made by other States. In doing so, DOMA threatens “the constitutional equality of the states [that] is essential to the harmonious operation of the scheme upon which the Republic was organized.” Coyne v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559, 580 (1911).

As Schneiderman implies, some State’s criteria for marriage is being applied, and it isn’t New York’s. To elevate Alabama’s laws to a national status and impose them on New York is precisely the sort of concern that consumed the constitutional convention and the US Constitution was written specifically to negotiate to what extent the separate autonomous states would act as one. Even individual rights were an afterthought.

From that time forward, Congress could not grant itself authority over matters belonging to the states. These are matters of the states alone, and the role of the federal government, congressional or judicial, has been interstate disputes and protecting the rights of the individual against the state. But Congress overstepped its bounds, and New York has joined that small club of states who have a cause to complain.

This position echoes and reinforces the position taken by Martha Coakley, the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in Commonweath v. HHS. Her lawsuit also seeks to defend the rights of Massachusetts to define the criteria for marriage for its citizens.

Politically, this issue is an area in which our opponents are awkward and in conflict. Long loud advocates for states’ rights and federalism and smaller centralized government, Republicans are uncomfortable talking about DOMA and its provisions. It is quite one thing to deny equality to gay people but the idea of championing the usurpation of a state right by Washington threatens not only party rhetoric, but a core principle which many Republicans hold dear.

Which is perhaps one reason why you don’t hear much from Congress or from party leadership in defense of DOMA. The presidential candidates, especially those who seem to be counting on the presumed stupidity of their base, try to simultaneously appeal to anti-gay prejudice and states right advocates by babbling nonsense about “respecting the decisions of the states” and also “supporting a constitutional amendment”.

But outside of the social-issue focused religious conservatives, you don’t hear many people defending the merits of DOMA. Even John Boehner, who has taken up the task of defending the law, talks more in terms of letting the courts rather than the President decide the law’s constitutionality and speaks only in the abstract about the nature of the law or defense of its merits. And even Texas Governor Rick Perry, a strong opponent to gay rights in Texas, surprised some conservatives with his take: (AP)

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, Colo. “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Ultimately, there need be (and will be) a Supreme Court decision that finds that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by the federal, state, and other government is in conflict with the US Constitution. But now that more than ten percent of the nation’s citizens live with conflicting state and federal marriage criteria, it may be the violation of the Tenth Amendment upon which DOMA is decided.

Weddings Blossom In New York

Jim Burroway

July 25th, 2011

Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, seconds after being pronounced legally married.

It has been a big day for marriages in New York City, where hundreds of gay couples solemnized their relationships on the first legal day of marriage equality. As promised, Mayor Michael Bloomberg got into the act when he officiated at the wedding of two of his staff members with the couple’s two daughters looking on. Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, finally made honest women of each other after twenty-three years of waiting for this day. They were the first couple married in Manhattan. The New York Times celebrated with an entire Style section devoted to the nuptials. The also report that with marriage equality arriving in the Empire State, everything associated with marriage is now equal — including parents bugging their kids about when they’re finally going to tie the knot.

Niagara Falls celebrates marriage equality

You can check out this Flickr stream for more marriage photos.  The Times’s City Room blog has more, with stories. And Andy Towle also has a good round-up from across the state.

Of course, there were protesters on hand in Manhattan, nearly all of them bussed in.

Bishop demands that gays get married

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011

The new marriage equality law in New York not only changed the ability of gay people to marry, it also introduced a requirement for some of them to do so. (Christian Post)

In the wake of gay marriage soon becoming a legal institution in the state of New York, the Episcopal Bishop of Long Island, has ordered that homosexual priests wed their partners.

Long Island Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano has put his foot down against gay clergy who residing in homosexual relationships, and has given a nine month deadline for them to either get married or stop living together, according to the News Observer.

“I need to be mindful that the church has always asked people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships. I won’t allow heterosexual clergy to live in a rectory or church housing without the benefit of marriage. When one puts it in that context, then you see how it all begins to make sense,” said Provenzano.

Sounds fair to me.

The entirely bogus “religious convictions” objection

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011

One of the whiny complaints made by anti-gay activists about New York’s new marriage equality bill is that it is not sensitive to the religious convictions of public employees. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue (who appears to waging a PR campaign to equal Catholicism with pigheaded bigotry) is all wounded and martyry about it in a commentary today:

Indeed, under New York State law, the onus is on the employer to show that it would cause “undue hardship” if an employee were to exercise his “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Now it is fatuous to say that it would cause an “undue hardship” in the workplace if clerks, and deputy clerks, who do not have an issue with giving marriage licenses to homosexuals handled these matters for those who do. It cannot be said too strongly: Bullying those who have religious objections is despicable.

There is an obvious hole in New York’s gay marriage law: religious exemptions need to be extended to lay people, not just the clergy.

Well, I’m all for respecting sincerely held religious beliefs. But I’m failing to find one here.

Sure there are people who sincerely believe that I should not marry a person of the same sex. And due to those beliefs, they would not attend my wedding, conduct the vows, offer a blessing, or even congratulate me. And I wouldn’t expect them to.

But while I’m familiar with the Bible and pretty up on how religion is practiced in America, I am unaware of any doctrine of any sect that forbids its followers to hand me a piece of paper . That’s what we’re talking about, issuing a form, typing responses in a database. And there are no doctrinal assessments I know of which assign responsibility or any presumption of participation – not even those of the Catholic Church – from the issuance or filing of forms.

Some Christians read in the verse portion from Habakkuk “woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk…” a prohibition on working in a bar or liquor store. Some are even troubled at serving alcoholic beverages as a waitress or grocery clerk. But I’ve never heard even the most conservative of Christians argue that they have some obligation not to hand out the form to request a liquor license.

And it goes without saying that many churches, the Catholic Church in particular, oppose the very existence of medical clinics which offer abortion services. Yet they do not suggest that the County Building Inspector refuse to issue a building license or that the city Clerk refuse to process a Business License. None of this administrative process is considered to be a part of, or the administrators culpable for, the abortions that will be conducted at the site.

There simply are no religious beliefs held by any of these public employees, sincerely or otherwise, which forbid them to administer the paperwork involved with any other businesses, marriages, divorces, or other vital statistics which they find morally objectionable. And if there were, their argument is a bit specious considering that they’ve been violating those beliefs with regularity for years.

Now I have less of a problem with Rosemary Centi, the city clerk in upstate Guilderland, who resigned from her position as marriage officer out of her religious conviction that she should not conduct gay marriages. But she will continue to remain the elected town clerk and issue marriage licenses to all eligible applicants, including gay couples. While I think it a rather peculiar belief that allows you to officiate at marriage between divorcees or people of mixed faith but not gay people, I don’t doubt that her decision is sincere. And I have to respect that Rosemary was able to distinguish between her own personal involvement as officiant and the processing of paperwork.

And I think that this distinction is perfectly obvious to any who think about it.

Why is it that some people would rather quit their jobs than treat gay couples with the same bureaucratic procedure as anyone else standing in line at the clerk’s counter? What is behind the peculiar notion that a public employee can deny civil services to a member of the public if they don’t pass their personal religious test? It certainly isn’t Scripture or doctrine or consistent moral character.

So perhaps Bill Donohue should consider whether he’s doing his church a favor by making this a big deal. His efforts to make Catholics look like victims may result in making them look like something else entirely.

Yeah, Bishop, be an asshole. That’ll show ‘em

Timothy Kincaid

July 8th, 2011

The Catholic Church is an institution with a reputation that few would wish for. Currently perceived by many as an international pedophile ring and headed up by a man who looks like he was cast for the role of Evil Sorcerer in a cheap Hollywood thriller, the Church’s public image problem has seldom been worse. And in response to this image catastrophe, the Church seems to have collectively agreed upon one course of action: whenever possible be an asshole.

Now this doesn’t seem to me to be the most effective way of regaining the trust and goodwill of the people, but it certainly seems to be what they’ve decided.

You can’t help but wonder who came up with this gem of a strategy: Rather than be known as a caretaker of sacred art, an ancient tradition of spiritual learning, a voice for personal integrity, and an advocate for the downtrodden, make your church’s highest visibility all about denying rights to gays and encouraging the poor to disregard economic realities in deciding family growth.

Oh, and to really prove your point, find those few areas in which you still have public goodwill and be a great big puckered oozing asshole.

If people respect your adoption programs, shut them down and blame gay people. If people see nuns as being selfless and devoted, close the nunnery to pay settlements for pedophile priests. And be sure that your spiritual leaders take actions that make them look like corrupt back-room finagling politicians; Because who doesn’t love a politician?

And at all times be an asshole in the most obnoxious, hostile, arrogant and truly hateful way. If you need a presence on television, why who could be better than Bill Donohue? And if social trends show that society is coming to see same-sex couples in a positive light, then make sure that the public sees you as the primary party seeking to uphold discrimination (and be certain to talk a lot about destroying society and perversion, that will be remembered well).

Ah yes, it’s a brilliant plan.

And right in line with this strategy is the response of the Bishop of Brooklyn to the New York marriage vote: If you voted for marriage equality, then you can’t give to needy children.

I kid you not. (Christian Post)

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio

Joseph Lentol, an assemblyman representing Brooklyn’s 50th district, saw firsthand just how serious the Brooklyn Diocese was. The Catholic legislative assembly member who openly voted for same-sex marriage made a donation to Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish School. The donation was declined.

Along with the return of his $50 donation, Lentol received a letter from Monsignor Joseph Calise, the church pastor. The letter stated: “Bishop DiMarzio has requested that all gifts received from politicians supporting same-sex marriage legislation be refused.”

Marketing genius, I tell ya. Sheer marketing genius.

New Yorkers support marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2011

A Quinnipiac poll reveals support for New York’s new marriage equality law. Between June 20 and June 26, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,317 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

24. Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?

Support 54%
Oppose 40%
DK/NA 5%

Considering that this poll bracketed the June 24 vote and that the marriage bill occupied front page coverage during that period, it is fair to assume that the results for the theoretical “a law” can be imputed to the law that was passed.

This certainly must not be happy news for Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage. Their stated plan for reversing marriage equality in New York is to

PHASE 1: Elect pro-marriage majorities next November that will approve a marriage amendment in both the Assembly and Senate during the 2013 legislative session.

PHASE 2: Protect pro-marriage candidates in the 2014 elections, so that the amendment can receive final legislative approval in the 2015 legislative session.

PHASE 3: Successfully pass the ballot measure when it goes before voters in November 2015.

I don’t think that this is intended as self-parody.

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.

NY Times: behind the scenes

Timothy Kincaid

June 28th, 2011

The New York Times over the weekend had a fascinating article discussing the behind-the-scenes story of the passage of New York’s marriage bill.

The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed.

But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.

And it was about a Democratic governor, himself a Catholic, who used the force of his personality and relentlessly strategic mind to persuade conflicted lawmakers to take a historic leap.

Marriage happened because billionaire Republicans wanted it, because a nephew refused to speak to his aunt, because the gay groups merged to put goals ahead of ego, because Mayor Bloomberg was tireless, because a major corporation in a key district applied pressure, because the Catholic Church was late and inept, and to a large degree because Governor Cuomo wanted to live up to his father.

But it almost didn’t happen. And the Times covers a few of the more fascinating hurdles along the way.

It’s Pride Week…

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2011

New Yorkers were celebrating the passage of marriage equality on Friday night, on the eve of that city’s massive Pride celebration commemorating a raid on a gay bar on Christopher Street in 1969. Local police got in on the fun by staging a modern day raid on a gay bar on West 28th Street:

An unannounced inspection that several agencies carried out at a gay bar in Manhattan on Friday night occurred at nearly the same time that patrons were celebrating the passage of legislation in Albany legalizing same-sex marriage.

…“I was on the roof deck, smoking a cigar and having drinks with friends, and all of a sudden, the police showed up and started shining flashlights in everyone’s face and offending everyone,” said Thomas J. Shevlin, a financial markets researcher and the treasurer of the Stonewall Democratic Club.

…Along with flashlights being shined in people’s faces, lights were turned off and patrons were forced to empty their pockets “without probable cause,” Mr. Shevlin said.

And then there’s this in Chicago:

In what could be a hate crime, dozens of tires on floats headed for Chicago’s Pride Parade were cut with knifes just hours before the Parade Sunday.

Chuck Huser, owner of long-time Pride float provider Associated Attractions at 4834 S. Halsted on Chicago’s South Side, said the floats were fine when he left 8 p.m. Saturday night, but when he returned 5 a.m. Sunday to start preparation for drivers to depart, he found two tires punctured each on more than 30 floats.

“This is catastrophic,” he told Windy City Times at 8 a.m. June 26. “This has never happened before, and we have been doing this since 1989.”

And finally, some truly tragic news of a fatal accident that led to the cancellation of Anchorage’s Pride parade:

A convertible carrying the grand marshal in Saturday’s gay PrideFest parade struck and killed a man just as the event began in downtown Anchorage, police said. Police late Saturday identified the victim as 50-year-old James L. Crump of Anchorage. Crump worked as a registered nurse for the city’s Health and Human Services department and was walking in the annual parade, police said.

…”It’s a pure accident,” Frank said. “(The driver) just panicked and kept hitting the accelerator and it kept jumping forward.”

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:

YouTube Preview Image

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.

True Colors

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2011

The Empire State building was already set to light up in rainbow colors last night in honor of the city’s Pride celebration this weekend, but given that it was the same night on which marriage equality became the law of the state, the new color scheme was given greater significance. And why not light up the night? New York Freedom to Marry notes that the New York victory represents several historic firsts:

  • For the first time, a Republican-led chamber, the New York State Senate, joined the Democrat-led Assembly in passing marriage legislation;
  • The marriage bill was strongly championed by a governor who ran for office on his pledge to pass a bill and then campaigned steadily for it, making it one of his top priorities and committing political capital to its passage;
  • A large number of America’s most prominent businesses including Xerox Corporation, Alcoa, and McGraw-Hill, and the heads of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup, along with New York’s most important labor unions, urged passage of the bill;
  • And numerous professional athletes, including NBA star Steve Nash, New York Rangers star Sean Avery, and New York Giants great Michael Strahan, joined the chairman of the New York Giants and owner of the New Jersey Nets in speaking out for the bill.

While Republican support was neither broad nor deep — only four GOP state Senators voted for the marriage equality bill — it was nevertheless critical and historic. The Republican caucus easily could have blocked the measure from coming to the floor but didn’t. Sen. Dean Skelos, the majority leader of the Republican-controlled chamber who personally voted against the bill, could have refused to allow the bill to come forward, but didn’t. A lot of those GOP Senators who voted against the bill could have prevented its passage in several critical stages along the way, but chose to allow it to pass without their fingerprints on it.

Say what you will about their votes against equality — I’m sure their grandchildren in future decades won’t look at those votes with pride — but I think it bears remembering that marriage equality ended up being the work of the entire chamber, and not just those who voted yes. It’s true that the those who voted yes are the ones who today and in the future deserve to be wrapped in glory. They are the ones who actually made it happen. And those who worked feverishly to prevent marriage equality (I’m looking at you, Diaz) will be scorned by future generations the way we today regard the Dixiecrats of 1948. But the fact remains that sometimes just standing aside so that the rising tide of justice can sweep through is just as important as voting yes. Openly gay Sen. Thomas K. Duane said that everyone in the New York Senate was a hero last night regardless of their vote. I suspect that this is what he was talking about.

NOM’s “Jesus” Is Crying

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2011

This is what you’ll find on the National Organization for Marriage’s facebook page right now.

Also, “vengeance is mine,” sayeth Maggie Gallagher.

[Via Alvin McEwen]

When Marriage Equality Was Announced

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2011
YouTube Preview Image

This is what it looked like in front of New York’s famous Stonewall Inn. (Video courtesy of Cathy Renna.)

New York Senate Passes Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2011

In a 33-29 vote, the New York Senate this evening passed the Marriage Equality Bill. Four Republican state senators joined 29 Democrats in voting for the measure. The bill, which had gained several amendments aimed at insulating religious institutions from the effects of the bill, passed the lower house earlier by a vote of 82-47 earlier today.

Those exemptions were very minor — they are already a matter of constitutional law under the U.S. First Amendment and the New York constitution’s religious freedom clause, but having them spelled out in the bill itself gave a few Senators the needed cover so they could vote for the measure. LGBT advocacy groups supported the exemptions.

The bill now goes on to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature, and will take effect thirty days after it is signed into law. With his signature, New York will become the seventh state to grant marriage equality to its citizens.

New York City’s pride celebration is this weekend. LGBT New Yorkers definitely has a lot to be proud of today.

UPDATE: Gov. Cuomo signed the bill shortly before midnight, bypassing the normal ten day wait and fulfilling a pledge to sign it as soon as it reached his desk. Marriage equality will arrive in New York on July 24.

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

Agreement Reached for NY Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2011

[UPDATE: The New York state Senate will vote on same-sex marriage tonight:

The State Senate will vote on same-sex marriage, the Senate majority leader said Friday afternoon, setting the stage for a final decision on the most closely watched issue facing the Legislature as it wraps up its annual session. The exact timing was unclear, thought it was expected to occur Friday evening.]

We now have numerous reports that a consensus has been reached among the Republican Caucus of the New York state Senate on wording for religious exemptions that may allow the bill to move forward for a floor vote:

Senate Republicans were still discussing the marriage bill in a closed-door meeting on Friday afternoon; it remained unclear when — or if — they would permit a vote on the broader legislation. The State Assembly, which approved an earlier version of the same-sex marriage bill last week, would need to approve the new language before the full bill could become law.

Emerging from a meeting with Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the Assembly version of the bill, said that there was an “agreement in principle” on the new language. He predicted that the Assembly would vote to adopt the new language on Friday.

Republicans have made no committment to bring the marriage measure to a floor vote. But a Senate spokesman said the decision would be announced sometime Friday night.

Marriage equality advocates have announced their support for the language. The entire bill has been posted online. The religious exemption appears as follows (text changed from all-caps to sentence case):

S 10-b. Religious Exception. 1. Notwithstanding any  state, local or municipal law, rule, regulation, ordinance, or other provision of law to the contrary, a religious entity as defined under the education law or section two of the religious corporations law, or a corporation incorporated under the benevolent orders law or described in the benevolent orders law but formed under any other  law of  this state, or a not-for-profit corporation operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious corporation, or any employee thereof, being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent  order, or a not-for-profit corporation as described in this subdivision, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any such refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any  civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits, or discriminate against such religious corporation, benevolent order, a not-for-profit corporation operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious corporation, or any employee thereof being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation.

2. Notwithstanding any state, local or municipal law or rule, regulation, ordinance, or other provision of law to the contrary, nothing in this article shall limit or diminish the right, pursuant to  subdivision eleven of section two hundred ninety-six of the executive law, of any religious or denominational institution or organization, or any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with  a  religious organization, to limit employment or sales or rental of housing accommodations or admission to or give preference to persons of the same religion or denomination or from taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is  established or maintained.

3.  Nothing  in this section shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions otherwise provided to religious organizations under section three of article one of the constitution of the  state  of New York.

As I read it, section one exempts religious organizations from providing services or facilities for “for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” Section two is somewhat less clear to me. It appears to exempt religious organizations and charities from fair housing and employment rules, nor would it require religious schools to open their admissions policies. Section three is simply a reiteration of the freedom of religion clause of the New York constitution. As I read it, these clauses do not give up very much at all, but merely reinforce religious prerogatives which already exist under existing law. Further, it should be noted that the language of these exemptions applies to all marriages, not just same-sex marriage.

Interestingly, there is also a nonseverability clause:

5-a. This act is to be construed as a whole, and all parts of it are to be read and construed together. If any part of this act shall be  adjudged by any court of  competent  jurisdiction to be invalid, the remainder of this act shall be invalidated. Nothing herein shall be construed to affect the parties’ right to appeal the matter.

It would appear that this may have been intended to strengthen the religious exemption clause. If someone were to successfully challenge the constitutionality of religious exemption portion of the marriage law, then the entire marriage law would be struck down. But it’s hard to imagine that the religious exemptions portion of the law could be challenged. They have been upheld before as being in accordance with the nonestablishment clause of the U.S constitution.

New York Marriage Equality NOT Likely Tonight

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2011

The Wall Street Journal reports that there doesn’t even seem to be any agreement on the bill coming to the floor:

At the same time, Republicans in the Senate headed for an internal showdown over gay marriage. Most members in the conference expect to bring the bill to the floor in the next two days, but resistance on the bill has provoked frustration among a conference that prides itself on its unity.

“I see it coming to the floor,” said a Republican senator. “People who don’t understand the process are thinking, ‘Don’t bring it up and it will go away for a year.’”

If they block the bill and head home to their districts, the senator said, the governor would likely order them back to Albany for a special session and demand that they take up the measure.

NBC New York quotes a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos saying the vote will be “likely tomorrow,” but negotiations are still continuing:

More protection for religious organizations such as adoption agencies and marriage counselors is sought by undecided Republican senators who are key to the vote.

Currently, the Senate appears to be one vote shy of making New York the sixth state where gay marriage is legal. It’s viewed as a critical moment in the national gay rights movement.

New York marriage equality likely tonight

Timothy Kincaid

June 22nd, 2011

The Wall Street Journal reports

State legislative leaders said Wednesday afternoon there are no major obstacles to a vote on whether to legalize gay marriage.

Democrats and Republicans emerged from meetings with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and said there is progress toward proposed additional religious protections that could bring a gay marriage bill to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Wednesday night. No deal had been struck as of Wednesday afternoon.

Other contentious matters concerning rent control and property tax have been resolved. The only unaddressed item of business is the senate vote on marriage equality. And if both sides are announcing “progress”, then the terms have been reached, the votes are counted, and all that is left is the orchestration of the waltz.

Here is how I predict the dance will flow:

At some point today, there will be an announcement that a deal has been reached. It will give “serious protections” to church operated marriage counselors, church affiliated adoption agencies, and maybe even church-owned campgrounds. This will be the justification given by the Republican Caucus to authorize Dean Skelos to bring a vote.

During debate, several Democrats will stand and speak of how proud they are to be part of this historic moment and how this is a grand day in equality. One Republican will stand to speak about basic equality and doing the right thing. And one Republican will stand and tearfully announce that this has been the most difficult vote in his life, how he has been torn by deeply held religious convictions but how finally it came down to the fact that he couldn’t tell the gay person in his life (cousin, neighbor, sister) that they just weren’t as good or as worthy as him and his wife.

One or two Republicans will speak about how they are torn and really love their gay friends and they are so so sorry but they just are not ready yet to change the definition of marriage. But no one (with the possible exception of Democrat Rubin Diaz) will quote the Bible or talk about “dangerous lifestyles” or utter a single anti-gay word.

Although marriage equality this year is truly the sole decision of Dean Skelos, the Republican Majority Leader, he will officially vote no. And although Skelos has framed his decision to call the vote as the decision of the Republican Caucus, the majority of Republicans will vote no on the bill. The Caucus has carefully decided who will be the votes to pass the bill and who is “not yet ready”.

And while the bill won’t actually become law until the revisions are approved by the House and the bill is signed by the governor, tonight’s vote will be what counts. The final vote will be around 34 to 28.

Champagne corks will fly, tears will flow, and politicians will beam.

NY GOP Sen.: Not Just Yes To Marriage, But Hell Yes

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2011

Andrew Sullivan sees New York state Senator Roy McDonald as the face of marriage equality — at least in New York:

In the wake of his announced “yes” vote for same-sex marriage, Sen. Roy McDonald has unveiled a facebook page called “Stand With Roy” and urges supporters to donate and sign a petition. The page itself has more than 10,000 “likes” Monday morning. A website, www.standwithroy.com, includes a spot for fundraising. …

The lawmakers’ announcement, along with his blunt responses to questions about same-sex marriage, made him something of a star. He was featured on the gossip website TMZ over the weekend.

I’m not a Republican, but if I were a New Yorker I’d definitely show him some love.

No NY Marriage Vote Today

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2011

The session in the New York state Senate isn’t wrapping up quite as quickly as planned:

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, emerged from a three-way meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, to say that discussions were continuing on working out the religious exemption language in a same-sex marriage bill. “We have staff people and members discussing with the governor religious protections. We’re still working on them,” Skelos said. “Once they’re prepared we’ll let you know what they are.”

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