How New York Can Get Around Sen. Ruben Diaz (But Possibly Won’t)


Yesterday could have been a big day in New York. The State Assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill, just like it did in 2007, but this time with even more backers thanks to the efforts of Daniel O’Donnell. So why aren’t we jumping up and down?

Because the New York State Senate doesn’t care about all this progress. In fact, the Senate doesn’t even have a date to vote on the bill, all because Democratic Majority Leader Malcolm Smith says he won’t bring the bill up for a vote unless he knows he has the support for it — something he doesn’t have us convinced he’s even working on, thanks to the promise he made anti-gay Sen. Ruben Diaz.

Which means even with the Democrats having a majority (a slim 32-30), there will be no action on S.B. 4401, which has 19 sponsors; Smith is only a “supporter.” But how could we get there? Excel wizard Nate Silver runs the numbers:

Based on recent public statements and press accounts, we count 5 Democrats — Shirley Huntley of Queens and George Onorato of Queens, Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, Darrel Aubertine of Cape Vincent, and William Stachowski of Buffalo — as definitively being opposed to the measure. We also count 7 Democrats as undecided, one of whom — David Valesky of Oneida — we characterize as leaning toward a no vote.

[…] The most plausible path to 32 votes involves picking up the 20 definite yes votes, plus the 5 Democrats and 7 Republicans that we characterize as truly undecided or leaning yes. Although a clean sweep of these votes would seem unlikely, there are some backup options in the form of 1 Democrat and 4 Republicans who we describe as leaning — but not definitively — against the bill.

Interestingly, notes Silver, if the Senate scored a 31-31 vote tie, the sitting Lt. Governor would make the tie breaking vote. Except since David Paterson was elevated to the top spot after Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned, we have no Lt. Governor. And they call us sexual deviants.

(PLUS: Read why some State Assembly members changed their vote from no to yes on the same-sex marriage bill. Our favorite comes from Republican Fred Thiele, who said in a press release last week: “I didn’t support the bill in 2007 because I thought equal rights could be guaranteed through civil unions. Since then, more states have experimented with civil unions as separate but equal, only to find that discrimination persisted in health care and other areas. The only way to ensure equality is by giving all couples access to the same civil right — the right to marry.”)