Marriage Equality for New Yorkers?

The New York State Senate could be voting on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Marriage Equality Act as early as today. The State Assembly, which is led by Democrats, has already passed the legislation – in fact, this is the fourth time that the Assembly has passed similar legislation, but it has never passed in the State Senate. It now goes to the State Senate, which is led by Republicans (32-30.) The proposed MEA, while it would legalize same-sex marriage, contains some exemptions which would protect any religious organizations or churches from lawsuits if they refuse to marry a same-sex couple (which, in my mind, somewhat negates the “equality” part of it.) Two of the Republican State Senators have said that they will vote for the legislation. One, Joel Miller, R-Poughkeepsie, is one of the few Republicans in the chamber to consistently vote in favor of same-sex marriage. I like what Senator Miller had to say in The Journal-News article.

“I have no problem with people who talk to God. I have problems with people who think God is talking to them,” Miller said, adding, “It is basic to America when we talk about land of the free and home of the brave. You can’t say land of the free and home of the brave except for one group I don’t particularly like.”

As of now it appears that one more ‘yes’ vote will be need to get it passed. Attention is now being focused on Republican State Senator Greg Ball, who represents District 40 (Putnam County, where Wayne and I both grew up and where we work.) Wayne spoke to Senator Ball regarding the same-sex marriage issue recently outside of our local supermarket in Patterson, Putnam County:

“I had a chance to talk to Greg Ball in person at one of his Senate on Your Corner events…I was trying to avoid speaking to him at all but I got funneled into a channel and he stepped up to shake my hand and introduce himself. I told him I knew who he was. So, not having anything prepared to say to him, I thought I would ask, “Where do you stand on gay marriage.” (A mistake, I know, and had I pre-planned the discussion, I would have used the words “marriage equality.)”

“He told me he was against it and I asked him why and he said that he thought it was “wrong.” He had concerns that churches might be forced to participate (or conduct) same-sex marriages against their will. I said that shouldn’t be a concern and that if they didn’t want to, they shouldn’t be forced to. (I honestly do not know the specifics of the Marriage Equality Bill, so I do not know how concerns like this are addressed.) I said gay people should be allowed to get married by a Justice of the Peace just like my wife and I were. (We were married in the restaurant where the reception was held.) He also said he thought most people were against it. Sensing, I guess, that he wasn’t going to convince me that he was right (based on the non-argument he gave), he blurted out that the Marriage Equality Bill “didn’t have the votes.” He said that somebody told him (I don’t know if it was the Governor or the Senate Majority Leader) that they didn’t have the votes to pass it. Keep in mind that this was about a week and a half ago and things have (apparently) changed since then. He then called over a friend of his (staffer? I don’t know) and asked him what he thought of it. The man said that he was Catholic and that he was against it. I said that if he was against it because of his own religious views that that was not a valid reason. Not everybody practices his religion and that no religious views should even be considered. That’s what separation of church and state was about.”

“He did tell me that he supported civil unions “fully” and that he favored letting voters decide on the marriage part itself. I reminded him “marriage” was not something owned strictly by religious people. I also said that the civil unions idea was relegating gay people to second class citizenship status that it was wrong. (I wish I thought to mention that you shouldn’t put Rights up to a popular vote, since the majority will all-too-frequently – and wrongly – deny a minority the same rights they have.) I said that civil unions weren’t the same thing at all. At the end of our discussion he remained unpersuaded, so I was surprised to hear people mention that he was “on the fence.” It did not appear that way to me.”

Ball is still holding out, arguing that the exemptions don’t go far enough to hold harmless the afore-mentioned religious organizations. Unfortunately for Ball, attention is also being focused on one of his staffers, who improperly used a constituent’s thank-you letter to Ball by altering it and sending it to media outlets, including the New York Daily News, via a false email address that the staffer created.

We will have to wait and see if New York, “The Empire State”, finally becomes the tenth ‘enlightened state.’ Expect an update on this story in the next day or two.

6/20, 9:55pm UPDATE: No vote yet. See articles from The Journal News here and here.

6/21, 9:55pm UPDATE: GOP-led NY State Senate still holding out, see today’s Journal News article here. See Greg Ball on CNN, via the Journal News’s “Politics on the Hudson” blog, here.

10 thoughts on “Marriage Equality for New Yorkers?

  1. “…has concerns that churches might be forced to participate…”

    1) So put a clause in, and if if gets taken out, then vote against the bill, and if it still passes then deal with it—every legislation is a sausage. .
    2) As religions are exempt from the majority of taxes, their input should be of less consideration than those who DO pay taxes; by this fact alone religions are not entitled to the same representation as normal tax-paying entities.
    3) Why the hell would any gay couple insist on being married by a Church that abhors the idea?—at best it would only possibly happen once, if it all, to force a legal and political test-case—which I’d calculate would be won by the Church anyway, and rightly so I think.

    “…I also said that the civil unions idea was relegating gay people to second class citizenship status… ”

    This is true, “marriage” being a status in law to which various legal rights and responsibilities are attached that civil union status does not provide.

    The majority of metropolitan New York has been noticeably “gay friendly” since, oh, Stonewall I reckon, 4-years of living in Manhattan and 15 years of working there showed me how large and active gays are in the larger community—-because they have the same damned ambitions and interests as heterosexuals, because their homosexuality doesn’t completely define them any more than heterosexuality does.

    Well done Wayne for getting the time with the Senator, and well done for being politically active, and good job on the post Jane.

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    • Thanks, 5th. Recently I finally started reading some of the local papers, and this topic has been so hot lately due to Greg Ball being one of our local State Senators.

      Previously Ball was better known for his rabid anti-immigrant stance. His TV campaign ads when he was running for State Senator were filmed ‘locally’, and one of them was filmed in the village of Brewster, where Wayne and I both grew up. I recognized this old bank building where my mum had her first job after us kids were old enough for her to go out and work. There used to be (don’t know if it’s still there) a little barber shop across the street from that building where mum saw Dirwood Kirby (Candid Camera) going in to get a haircut, and she ran out and got his autograph. That had to be 40 years ago or more. The bank building is now a florist, and it’s where we got the flowers for our wedding.

      Anyway, Ball’s campaign ads would feature either Hispanic immigrants wandering the streets of Brewster, or Ball with his pickup and his Weimaraner – I liked the dog, but Ball is a slime.

  2. Nice post Jane. Thanks for keeping us up on this. I know someone in New York who has been with his partner for 25 years now, and he is following this closely. It matters a great deal to him and their lives.

  3. I’m so happy Wayne got to speak to your state senator, even if he was a Republican. It is so important to be able to engage people in discussing issues whether we all agree or not. That is getting lost in our society. It is just so polarized that discussion has dissolved into nothing but screaming and yelling matches, and very nasty signs and slogans. The art of honest and open debate is being lost.

    I have to admit that for me it is VERY difficult having a conversation about politics with someone I strongly disagree with on the issues, and stay calm and reasoned. I wish I could do better.

    • Thanks, Muse. In a way, I had no choice. As I said, I got “funneled” into a narrow channel with my shopping cart while I was on my way out to the car to give Jane her pain medications. My intention was to avoid him and get back to my wife. But he greeted me and I figured I ought to hear what he had to say. Since he asked me first, I asked him about gay marriage.

      Our conversation was quite civil, with neither of us raising our voices or name-calling. I was even able to keep myself from using “profanities” (other people call them that, they’re just regular vocabulary words to me.) After about ten or fifteen minutes, I thanked him and said i had to leave. He said he wished he could discuss property tax caps, which I could easily have spent another fifteen minutes arguing with him about, but, like I said, Jane was in the car and in pain. Property tax caps are just another right-wing way to cut education funding, and they know it!

    • Thanks, Z. I’ve been trying to get an update on this; the local paper’s website was updating the progress of this until a few hours ago, as the State Senate was supposedly staying in session until they finished with several other bills, including this one. I just tried refreshing it one last time before I head to bed, but I lost the connection to the website. In the meantime, though, I did find out that that prick Greg Ball was going to vote ‘no’, just as we had thought all along. Turns out he was playing ‘undecided’ in order to force particular religious and business – yes, BUSINESS – exemptions, most but not all of which got added to the bill. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for Ball, He even admitted that the bill would probably pass eventually (maybe not in this session), but that he wanted the strongest exemptions that he could get into it first. Typical Republican tactic, force your opponents to water down a bill to your specifications, then vote NO anyway. This really pisses me off.

      Gotta go to bed, I’ll catch up with this tomorrow.

      Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have more to report.

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