Gay-Marriage Opponents Welcome NY Bill's Defeat

A bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage was rejected by New York lawmakers, a stunning outcome for advocates in a state that was the site of one of the gay rights movement's defining moments four decades ago, and a huge victory for opponents who said it could influence votes elsewhere.

"It's just a huge win," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to protect marriage. "It's going to help cement defeat for gay marriage in New Jersey, and I think it's going to get a whole bunch of politicians in New Hampshire who voted for gay marriage this year pretty nervous when they come up for election."

So far this year New Jersey failed to schedule long-expected votes on bills to legalize gay marriage, Maine voters rejected a measure and California voters rescinded their law. Supporters, however, point to Vermont and New Hampshire, where lawmakers adopted gay marriage bills this year, while the city council in Washington, D.C., is expected to legalize gay marriage next month.

Iowa's Supreme Court also recognized gay marriage this year. Gay marriage was already legal in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Richard Socarides, who was former President Bill Clinton's senior adviser on gay rights issues, called New York "clearly the biggest prize in this effort."

"Not only will it affect a lot of people because New York is a big state," he said, "but symbolically New York is the country's leader in finance, the arts and culture. It's a bellwether for the country."

Across the Hudson River, New Jersey was watching.

"Here in New Jersey, many of the legislators would rather not vote on it," said Gregory Quinlan, of New Jersey Family First, which opposes gay marriage.

He said New York's action underscores that reluctance and bolsters his group's position.

But Steven Goldstein, CEO of Garden State Equality, countered that the demographics of New York and New Jersey are very different.

"If Democrats in New Jersey don't lead the way, as they promised, to pass marriage equality in 2009, there could be a mutiny against the New Jersey Democratic Party the likes of which this state has never seen," he said.

On Wednesday, New York's bill was defeated 38-24 in the Senate led by liberal New York City Democrats holding a single-seat majority. It was the last hurdle for passage for the measure passed three times by the Democrat-led Assembly and strongly pushed by Democratic Gov. David Paterson.

Gallagher said she never expected such a lopsided margin. She said the supporters of the bill hurt their cause by equating opponents of gay marriage to slave owners and Nazis.

"The gay marriage movement usually looks very smart," she said. "Now it looks flat-footed."

Evan Wolfan, director of the national gay rights group Freedom to Marry, said the vote stung. He and other national advocates blamed in part the fractured dynamics of the New York Senate, where Democrats won a slim majority this year after a half-century of Republican control, only to face defections from its ranks and a Republican-dominated coup that gridlocked the chamber this summer.

The Senate's Republicans who were expected to cross the aisle to support the measure had a scare put into them in November. The state's Conservative Party reasserted its power in GOP politics when the Conservative candidate in a special election for an upstate congressional seat attracted so much support he forced a more moderate Republican to end her campaign.

But advocates say there were victories in the loss and New York — site of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, considered the birth of the modern gay rights movement — may have provided a model for success.

The "cause of inclusion" has gained, said Wolfan.

"Most striking was the eloquence and the passion and the details of what people had to say in this very personal and rich way," said Wolfan, who like thousands nationwide watched the Senate's webcast of the more than two-hour debate.

Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger, of Manhattan, talked about her grandparents who escaped discrimination against Jews and were steeped in religion.

"My religion, I believe, teaches me I must vote yes today," she said.

Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat and black civil rights activist, said gays are now in the position of the Irish, Italians, blacks and other oppressed groups.

"I am hoping New York state comes out of the closet and understands that all Americans deserve the right to marry who they love," Adams said. "This is about love ... we have no right to deny that."

During debate, Sen. Ruben Diaz, a conservative minister from the Bronx, led the mostly Republican opposition.

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  • by BigC Location: Tarboro on Dec 5, 2009 at 01:48 PM
    They should have the right to be as miserable as the rest of the married people. Who cares what the people down the street do. They are the ones that have live with it. The way I see it is for every two gay men there is two more women for me.
  • by Jeff Location: Ayden on Dec 4, 2009 at 10:17 AM
    Interesting. Tried to think of one right that I as a straight male would have that isn't afforded to a gay. Can't think of any. So throwing all the hype, spin, and manipulation out, it all boils down to preference and not rights. The things that are lawful for me to do are the same lawful things for a gay. Those things that are unlawful for me are also unlawful for a gay. There are no rights favoring one over the other...Interesting.
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Dec 4, 2009 at 06:38 AM
    Morality - everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. People really should stop using that out-dated text, it doesn't apply to the 21st century. Hey folks - turns out that the Earth isn't the center of the universe, nor is it flat. Oh yeah, spitting on an open wound will not cause it to heal, I am pretty sure my doctor would recommend going to the hospital if you do have a deep cut, instead of just spitting on it. (Just some of the nonsense that was common sense back then)
  • by Anonymous on Dec 4, 2009 at 01:28 AM
    anon: Again it puzzles me why you speak of the Bible. I remember many times you posted about being an atheist.
  • by Lee Location: Williamston on Dec 3, 2009 at 06:30 PM
    Solution, give all the gays a state of their own. Maybe Alaska would do. Make it law all of them live there or go to prison where they can practice their gayness openly and make the guards puke. Anal sex is not normal and is crazy and perverted. I do not care what any of you think. You can argue for it all you want. It is no better than a human having sex with an animal.
  • by John Location: Gville on Dec 3, 2009 at 08:26 AM
    The state has no business being involved in marriage in the first place. Also, if people want to argue the concept of what a "traditional marriage" is or isn't, let's recall that a man having 18 wives is a "traditional" marriage in the bible.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Dec 3, 2009 at 05:50 AM
    It failed to pass in California, that was the first big test. If it were voted for in NC, it wouldn't pass either. At least some New Yorkers still have moral values.
  • by Equality For All Location: Greenville on Dec 3, 2009 at 05:32 AM
    So all you bible thumpers like to cut paste and delete pieces and parts of the bible and create your own interpretations. Its okay for couples to divorce because they will be forgiven, but gays who are in love cannot get married because in your own words, it'll never be okay? Religion and State should never be mixed!
  • by anon Location: wallace on Dec 3, 2009 at 05:13 AM
    the Bible does condem divorce along with other sins[ ten commandments] butGod also said man is not perfect only him, that is why our sins were paid for on calvary. we can be forgiven of divorce and other sins and transgressions. if marriges were made in heaven there would be no divorces at all.but as far as the law to preserve matrriage between a man and woman, , just remember sodom and gomorrah when it comes to gays and strays.
  • by Equality For All Location: Greenville on Dec 3, 2009 at 03:52 AM
    Look, if straight republicans want to "Preserve Marriage" for one man & one woman, then there needs to be a law that makes it illegal for divorces. Everyone agree? Yep, remember those words a married couple says "till death do us part"...doesn't the bible condemn divorces? Divorces should be made illegal!!
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