Increased Assembly support from both Republicans and Democrats puts pressure on Senate to act
May 12, 2009—By a bipartisan vote of 89 to 52, the New York State Assembly today passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in New York. This is the second time that the Assembly has voted on and passed marriage equality legislation. The Assembly first passed the bill in June 2007 by a vote of 85 – 61. Today’s vote saw an increase in four supporters over 2007, including three additional Democrat votes and one additional Republican vote, for a total of 84 Democrats and five Republicans voting to support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Five Assemblymembers who voted “no” in 2007 voted “yes” today.
“Thanks to the Assembly’s leadership on this issue, we are one step away from winning marriage equality in New York,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle. “This second vote on the marriage bill in the Assembly won greater support than it did in 2007, with more Democrats and Republicans standing up to protect all New York families. I want to thank Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell for once again leading this bill through his chamber and so eloquently arguing for the need to provide same-sex couples with the 1,324 rights and protections that come with a New York State marriage license. We also thank the thousands of New Yorkers who had conversations with their Assemblymembers—in their districts and in Albany—and conveyed to them the importance of this issue.”
The Pride Agenda attributes the increased margin of victory in the Assembly to two main factors: greater understanding by legislators that only civil marriage and not any other legal mechanism provides equality for same-sex couples and recognition by legislators that support for marriage equality is not politically toxic at the ballot box.
“Several legislators who are now supporters but weren’t earlier have told me their evolution on this issue is due to having a much better understanding that only a civil marriage license provides equality for our families,” said Van Capelle. “Legislators also saw that a vote for marriage equality in 2007 had absolutely no impact on who won or lost last November.”
Legalizing marriage for same-sex couples is supported by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, as well as every statewide official, including Governor Paterson, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. A recent Siena poll showed that, by a 14-point spread, the majority of New Yorkers support making marriage legal for same-sex couples (53% - 39%).
“The only remaining barrier to ending second-class status for gay and lesbian families in New York is now the State Senate,” said Van Capelle. “To every single member of the State Senate I say this: The landscape has shifted in New York. Do you want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history when the story is written about how marriage equality came to New York? Your grandchildren will want to know how you voted on this important human rights issue. This is a legacy vote.”
LGBT New Yorkers and allies from across the state, including the New York State AFL-CIO and nearly 500 clergy and lay leaders will be working to secure the needed votes in the State Senate to pass the marriage bill by the end of the legislative session.
“Our families cannot wait any longer,” said Van Capelle. “Now is the time for the State Senate to do what the rest of the state wants them to do, which is make marriage legal for all New York families.”