NY, MD Next for Marriage Equality?

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 3, 2010

With the election of Andrew Cuomo to the governor's office in New York and the re-election of Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, those states may be poised to be the next to offer gay and lesbian families legal equality.

O'Malley has said that if the Maryland state legislature approves a marriage equality law and sends it to his desk he will sign it. "Tonight we chose a better future for the children of Maryland," O'Malley told a cheering audience late on the evening of Nov. 2, the Baltimore Sun reported on Nov. 3. The newspaper noted that O'Malley's re-election was an exception in an anti-incumbent and anti-Democrat election season.

GLBT bloggers viewed O'Malley's victory as a step toward family parity for residents of Maryland. "Many are looking to Maryland to become the next state to approve marriage equality and with Gov. O'Malley winning reelection, that prospect looks brighter," Joe Jervis blogged at JoeMyGod.com. "Big win for LGBT rights!"

The election of Andrew Cuomo to the office of governor in New York was also viewed as a positive development. Outgoing governor David Paterson had insisted last year that a vote on a bill to extend marriage equality to gay and lesbian families in the Empire State take place in the state's Senate for the first time, after the Assembly had approved such legislation four times. In a December, 2009, special session, the State Senate, .

Cuomo, claiming the office previously held by his father, handily defeated Tea Party-backed Republican candidate Carl Paladino, who offended GLBTs last month with an address in which he referred to gays as embracing a "lifestyle" that he said was not "an equally valid and successful option."

Cuomo, in his victory speech, avoided mention of Paladino by name, but told his supporters, "They thought they can divide us and they thought they could take our diversity and make it a weakness. But they can't," the New York Daily News reported Nov. 3. Cuomo went on to declare, "We are going to be united. That's what made this state and that's what's going to make this state the Empire State once again."

The Advocate noted that Cuomo embraced the cause of GLBT equality from the get go, adding in his speech, "Yes, we are gay and we are straight," he continued. "But we are one state because we are New York."

"It's really exciting," said open lesbian Christine Quinn, who serves a speaker for the New York city council. "To have a governor who not just supports marriage equality but says he is going to sign a marriage equality bill sends a message to the legislators that they need to get the job done and get it done soon."

Though the marriage bill did not attract a single Republican supporter in the State Senate last year, GOP State Sen. Dean Skelos pledged that the chamber would vote on marriage equality if Republicans regained control of the Senate, The Advocate reported.

GLBT equality group Fight Back New York, which was formed in the aftermath of last year's State Senate vote, which saw former supporters of marriage equality abandon the push for family parity, had endorsed Cuomo and rallied voters to defeat State Sen. Frank Padavan. "Anti-equality," text at the Fight Back New York website read. "Padavan has helped lead the charge for the passing an anti-gay so-called 'defense of marriage act' in New York State. He doesn't even believe that same-sex couples deserve civil unions."

Padavan appeared headed for defeat late on Nov. 2, with challenger Tomny Avella asserting victory, reported Forest Hills Patch.com.

Other pro-equality governors around the nation held on to their offices despite the electorate's anti-incumbent mood, the Associated Press reported. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, won his reelection bid decisively. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to extend marriage parity, despite the efforts of then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, to prevent it.

New Hampshire's John Lynch also held on to his gubernatorial office, despite being targeted by opponents of GLBT equality for having signed marriage equality into law last year. Lynch, a Democrat, won his fourth consecutive term.

In California, the state's attorney general and former governor Jerry Brown defeated anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, despite Whitman having poured a record $142 million of her own money into her campaign. As attorney general, Brown declined to defend Proposition 8, the 2008 anti-gay ballot initiative that stripped same-sex families of their marriage rights, in court. Proposition 8 was found to be unconstitutional in a federal court decision that is now under appeal.

Several anti-gay gubernatorial candidates also won on Nov. 2, including Republican Terry Branstad in Iowa. Brandstad favors putting the currently existing marriage rights of gay and lesbian Iowans up to a Proposition 8-style vote. In Kansas, anti-gay Republican candidate Sam Brownback won the governorship, while in Wyoming anti-gay Republican Matt Mea claimed victory in the gubernatorial race.

But several pro-equality incumbents and challengers declared victory in the Senate. Incumbent Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, fended off anti-gay challenger Sharron Angle, while Delaware Democrat Chris Coons defeated Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell.

Rhode Island voters elected openly gay candidate David Cicilline, a Democrat and the mayor of Providence, to the House of Representatives, making Cicilline the fourth openly gay person to be elected to Congress.

Voters in Lexington, Kentucky, also weighed in favorably for openly mayoral gay candidate Jim Gray, who upset incumbent Jim Newberry and carried the election with 53% of the vote, according to the Associated Press.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.