New York State Assembly passes marriage bill

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Tuesday May 12, 2009

The New York State Assembly passed a bill tonight that would extend marriage to same-sex couples by a 89-52 vote.

"Thanks to the Assembly's leadership on this issue, we are one step away from winning marriage equality in New York," Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle said.

Openly gay Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell [D-Manhattan], stressed the bill is extremely important for him and his partner of 28 years. He said a doctor did not call him after his partner had back surgery a decade ago.

"There is no way if he was my husband or wife that would have ever happened," O'Donnell said.

Assemblymember Teresa Sayward [R-Willsboro] was among the roughly half a dozen Republicans who voted in favor of the bill. She evoked her gay son as she cast her vote.

"The word marriage symbolizes love, commitment and family and why should my son and other sons and daughters around the state of New York [not] have the same opportunity to experience that same commitment, love and family that other heterosexual couples do," Sayward said. "It's time for us to not only reach in our hearts, but to do what we as elected officials in America have done all along and say we will not accept anything but equal rights."

"It is time for the Senate to stand up and provide the leadership-either put up or shut up!"

The Assembly passed a similar bill former Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced in 2007. Then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] later blocked it.

Governor David Paterson introduced the bill in both the Assembly and the state Senate last month. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans, Queens] has repeatedly indicated he is unsure whether the bill has enough votes even among his own membership to ensure its passage. Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos [R-Rockville Centre] has said he will allow his GOP colleagues to vote their conscience.

Openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan], stressed he feels the eyes of the state-and indeed the country-are now on his Senate colleagues.

"Today's vote in the Assembly in favor of same-sex civil marriage once again proved that civil rights cannot and will not be denied," he said in a statement. "I am confident that this year my Senate will uphold this fundamental legal principle and vote for my right, our right, to be married this year."

Assemblymember Jose Rivera [D-Bronx] directly challenged state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., [D-Bronx] and others who continue to threaten to block the bill in the state Senate.

"We're sending a clear message to the other side," Rivera said shortly before the Assembly passed the bill. "It is time for the Senate to stand up and provide the leadership-either put up or shut up!"

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.