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.