After four decades of Republican control, the New York State Senate’s Democrats scored a coup in January, finally securing the chamber. Five months later, they may have lost it after a riotous affair went down this afternoon, with two Democrats abandoning their party to join hands with Republicans — who promptly demanded a new roll call vote to find new leadership and oust Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. What’s this mean for the fractious effort to beat the legislative session’s ticking clock to pass same-sex marriage legislation?
In a stunning turn of events, Sens. Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens (pictured, via) announced they were joining up with Republicans, though it’s not clear why. (Both men are under criminal investigation. New York is also in the middle of a frenzied state budget affair.)
Interestingly, Sen. Rubén Díaz Sr. — arguably the most vocal Democratic opponent to same-sex marriage and one of the “Gang Of Three” who nearly refused to give Smith his vote to make him leader after the November elections — did not join the rebellion. Under a new power-sharing agreement, both Sens. Espada Jr. and Republican Dean Skelos will assume co-leadership roles. Meanwhile, Smith calls the Republican takeover “illegal” and insists he’s still in power.
Fine. But what’s that mean for gay marriage? Well, things aren’t looking good.
• If Republicans do take control over the Senate, they will certainly not allow a bill to reach the floor for a full vote. Which means even if Sen. Thomas Duane had locked up the 32 votes necessary to pass the bill, it’s now dead in the water.
• If this mess is not sorted out immediately and power not officially maintained by either party, you can expect the rest of the legislative session to be tied up with turmoil, and the same-sex marriage issue pushed to the back of the bus in terms of priorities.
• If Democrats do maintain control, we’re still not out of the water. Sens. Espada Jr. was marked in the “yes” column while Monserrate was “undecided” on supporting marriage equality; it’s unclear how the team up with Republicans would impact that vote. Moreover, if Smith retains his leadership post, he may still not permit the same-sex marriage bill to come up for a vote, since he’s requiring 32 votes to pass it.
And as Elizabeth Benjamin notes: “Another rumor du jour is that Diaz, who is furious that the gay marriage bill he opposes appears to be gaining some traction in the Senate, would be angry enough with Smith if the measure comes up for a vote on the floor to join the Senate GOP. […] It’s a (typically) cryptic way of Diaz Sr. confirming the worst fears of marriage advocates – that there was indeed a deal between himself and Smith that the gay marriage bill would not come to the floor in exchange for Diaz Sr.’s support of Smith for majority leader. And now, in Diaz Sr.’s mind, if Smith brings the bill to the floor, all bets are off.”
Undoubtedly, some will argue Senate Democrats sat on their hands too long to legalize same-sex marriage — and now have nothing but a regime change to show for it.
@Nick: The change of power probably has nothing to do with gay marriage. Espada was on record as a gay marriage supporter. Monserrate was undecided.
Don’t blame gays for this one.
Where do I donate to target every single one of these anti-gay democrats for elimination by primary challengers?
I find it surprising there are so many anti-gay REPUBLICANS in NY. NY does not strike me as the kind of state with pseudo-Christian hate mongering republicans…I figured they were more in the “fiscally republican” camp.
@Nick: Wow! He’s right. I think I’m going to sign up for reparitive therapy. Maybe I’ll marry a girl and live my life as a sad, lonely, liar. Maybe I’ll go in my corner and accept that I’m not worthy of the same rights everyone else is.
Forget the state legislature. Sue for your rights in your state court!
@Matt: Then you can run for the Senate!
@Flex: We tried that back in 2006, and it didn’t work. The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled against us 4-2 in five marriage cases.
I understand your frustration. Gay marriage, on our part, doesn’t have anything to do with religion. Right hand of god religion cannot exist with the legalization of gay equality. They raise hundreds of millions of dollars by spreading lies, and inciting hate against us. So, they will blindly defend their pious beliefs at all costs.
Sue for your marriage rights in your state court!
John in SF
@Nick: Actually, if it is true that Smith had a back room deal to retain power by promising Diaz that he would keep marriage off the floor of the Senate, then he SHOULD lose power – and thank God the gays were there to bring him down. I’m tired of equality being sacrificed for political purposes by our “friends”.
If Smith did not have such a deal…then why blame the gays anyway? Time to have our politicians face up to their obligations to all of their citizens, including LGBTs. No excuses. No delays.
Was it appealed to your state supreme court? The legal landscape has changed significantly for gay people, and for marriage equality.
Democrats weren’t on track to approve gay marriage in New York either, so it’s not like this is a huge change for our hopes. The difference is now that Ruben Diaz doesn’t have a veto on a gay marriage bill out of fears that the Democrats would lose party control, so effectively, all previous bets are off.
@Flex: The Court of Appeals is New York’s highest court.
@ Flex (No. 11):
Bizarre as it sounds, the Court of Appeals is the highest court in the state of New York. Our Supreme Courts are the highest courts in each county. “Supreme Court, County of Kings”, for example.
So the answer to your question is essentially, “yes”.
Ugh..sometimes I really hate living in New York.
Typical though..giving you hope only to let you down…
And the legislature wonders why people are leaving this state in droves.
Canada is only 20 minutes away..
This is why i hate politicians – they’re all snakes.
Assuming New York is a wash this year… (it might not be, but let’s operate that it is)
Every married same-sex couple in the U.S. should join in a Federal class action suit along with every person discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to demand the reversal of DOMA and for equal protection under the 14th Amendment, to include the mandate to be counted in the 2010 census as married couples. Unmarried same-sex couples in New York should visit a gay-friendly state and get married, return home to New York and join the aforementioned suit.
Patchwork marriage laws failed in respect to interracial marriage. Loving v Virginia must be tested. The time is now.
I used to think we should wait for a more liberal SCOTUS, but now I think we should proceed post-haste. If they rule against us, it will be a new landmark to one day be overturned. just like Bowers v Hardwick, 1986.
New York is your typical faux liberal state in which gays are exploited for their votes. When it comes down to the tin tacks of the matter, New York is more conservative than Iowa.
For those who have read my previous posts on NY and the Senate, there was never a chance for marriage equality to pass in 2009. My plan was simple (just add a middle step):
1) Target the Democrats that were anti-marriage equality in primaries with those who will vote in support of the bill.
2) Target these new Republicans in the general election with Democrats (they reside in Democrat districts anyways).
3) Target districts that, thanks to voter registration enrollment trends, the incumbant Republican is weakened.
Then marriage equality will be passed in 2011.
Prof. Donald Gaudard
@AndreasLights: There is a federal law suit filed in Massachusetts called Gill v. Office of Personnel Management which challenges the portion of DOMA which denies federal benefits to gay married people. The Justice Department (Obama administration) has until June 29 to respond to the case. If they decide to fight it, then we’ll know that Obama is a snake. If they choose not to fight it, the Congress (the Democrats) can choose to fight it. In any event, we’ll know pretty soon whether or not federal benefits will be available to gay people who are married in the 6 states that allow it. I’m not sure if gays who are married in Canada or in one of the European countries who allow gay marriages would be covered, but I believe that they would be.
My only question is whether or not Congress would challenge it, or if not, whether the Republican members of Congress can challenge it on their own even if the Democratic majority doesn’t want to. If someone who practices Constitutional law could answer these questions, I would certainly appreciate it. Don
@AndreasLights: They actually don’t have to file suit to get marriage rights in NY. All they have to do is get married in a state that does allow gay marriage. Earlier this year, NY started recognizing gay marriages performed in other states. EVERY same sex couple in NY that wants marriage rights just has to go to any of the other local states and get married.
That’s why I have a hard time understanding all this big deal about opposing marriage equality by the NY politicians. By not allowing gay marriage, the state still has to recognize marriages from other states and doesn’t get any of the economic benefits of gay weddings that would otherwise take place in NY.
It’s kind of idiotic.
Remember Stonewall. The government of New York, the NY Supreme Court included, were NOT on the side of gay people. Nearly 40 years later, New York City and Mayor Bloomberg used the city’s legal department to defeat marriage equality/human rights protection for gay people in the NY court system. It is ironic that the UN which purports to stand for human rights is headquartered in New York City. The best way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall is to go to Iowa, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or New Hampshire and celebrate pride with the people of the states that uphold the human rights of all family members – gay and straight.
How come Queerty has not (yet) blamed Obama for this? Surely it must be his fault – he must have been pulling strings in the background, as he was fearful that the NY Senate might have allowed gay marriage!
Prof. Donald Gaudard
@AndreasLights: The Defense of Marriage Act does not provide for gay marriages. It is as follows:
1. No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
2. The federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.
So repealing DOMA does not provide for gay marriages. Each state would still be on their own to decide whether or not they want gay marriages. New York and Washington DC (effective July 3, approximately) recognize out of state gay marriages notwithstanding section 1. The Gill case challenges Section 2, but does not deal with Section 1. If we (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) have brought the law suit) win the Gill case, then Social Security death benefits and other federal benefits would be available to gay married couples and the Census Bureau could count gay couples. Don
The gay lobby always counted on some Republican state senators to vote for it and unless there is a big enough shift in the next election it still will need to count on GOP state senators. There are some Republican state senators who will vote for it at the end of the day if it is brought to the floor and it is a vote of conscience for the GOP (which it is likely to be, that means they are not expected to vote the way the leadership determines). It is unlikely, however, that a GOP controlled state senate in NY State would bring this to vote.
The previous scenario was: Dems in control, bring it to the floor, most Dems vote yes, some Dems vote no, most GOP vote no, small number of GOP vote yes, bill passes.
Now, more or less, all bets are off.
Actually, for those of you not from the red state portion of New York, and yes, there is one, Upstate, outside the Hudson Valley, the city, and the Island, there is a nice little red state area of New York. New York is a nice, conservative state; if the city were to be severed from the State, New York would be somewhere between reliably red state and swing state, where Nevada, Arizona and Colorado used to be.
@GayGOP: But then it wouldn’t really be New York, would it? I’d love explaining that to a tourist- “Oh, no, New York City isn’t in New York”. Must be how people in Kansas City feel.
Face it, you’re stuck with us. 😛
John in SF
@GayGOP: good point: “Actually, for those of you not from the red state portion of New York, and yes, there is one, Upstate, outside the Hudson Valley, the city, and the Island, there is a nice little red state area of New York”. Same is true in California. Pennsylvania. Florida. Ohio. Even Texas.
@Dom: urg im over this city lets charter a bus for canada for marriage & health care!!!
Don’t frame this as a purely Republican’s against gay marriage and Democrats for it type thing. Several Democratic senators are against the bill as well and some Republicans are for it.
Coleman L. Bell
Once again, New York has fallen behind the rest of New England and other ‘progressive’ states on a matter involving Civil Rights. What blows me away is that these Senators are BOTH under criminal investigation, and will likely not see then end of their terms anyhow. One more reason I will be running for elected office in NY in the not too distant future…
@GayGOP: Yeah, that part adds up to about 15% of the population. And NY has a congressional delegation that is 10% GOP — because, of course there are so very meny reliably red voters in NY.
The NY state senators who are GOP have mostly been there forever. It’s the incumbancy (and the general corruption in Albany) that keeps them there, but they are slowly falling…ask Serph Maltese.
Coleman L. Bell
@CHIP: I am totally on board with you, Chip! Let’s move to Queens and the Bronx, into these districts, and either oppose them in the race or actively campaign for a fair minded dem or rep competitior!
@ Coleman L. Bell: Are you kidding me? Have you been to areas like Astoria, Woodside, etc.? There are some of the worst haters living in Queens and in Brooklyn. Sometimes it feels like you are walking through a KKK rally in those areas. As I have always maintained, the myth about the “liberal New York” is a big fat lie! Even in the gay ghettos you deal with issues like, racism, ageism, body image, economic strata, and the list goes on. I sure would have liked to live in the Village when it was the bohemian sanctuary (it was a tad before my time). But then again, that too might have been a big fat lie!
It is all these bigoted minorities. I cannot believe that they do not remember where they came from. These guys are pigs.
@GayGOP: gaygoop, you don’t know what you are talking about. your “red upstate” hasn’t voted for a republican since 1988. since 88 only once did upstate vote democrat with less than 3% margin. in 08 it was a blowout with 6.5% margin. unless you also cut out upstate cities – rochester, syracuse and buffalo not to mention ithaca, and much of the fingerlakes, you’ll never get upstate to be red. you wouldn’t even get it to be a swing state anymore. so keep dreaming.
Is someone being Stereotype? Since when did only Democrats favor Gay Marriage?
@Dom: I am feeling the same way about living in California.
I am a fat loser and would vote for the Republicans. HA HA HA
OKAY Then do so!
@Coleman L. Bell: Where r u moving to? I dont want to compete with you in a primary! 😛
I myself have talked with my local Dems about future elections. Depends on the area, an openly gay politician could run without a problem against a republican or democrat against marriage equality.
For those of you claiming homosexuality is a “lifestyle”, that is a false and ignorant statement. Homosexuality is not a choice. Just like you don’t choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. If you can, sorry, but you are not heterosexual, you are bi-sexual. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.
Gay, Straight Men’s Brain Responses Differ
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. “Nurture” may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.
The Repugs have put the New York Senate in the hasnds of a criminal – but he’s against gay marriage!!!
This comes as no surprise, the coup was planned for months with the help of indepedent billionaire Golisano who wanted to see a coalition of republicans and dems. These coalitions rarely ever succeed and may not. In any event, we’ve been shafted whatever way you look at it, no surprise there. Forget about marriage equality, its highly doubtful, and many of us are under the illusion that ours is a progressive state, its not, it never has been with of course the exception of the borough of Manhattan, New York City. Once you leave the city, you might as well be in Alabama and the further upstate you go, you enter red country. Catholic voters are particularly strong upstate too.
I think New York City should pass marriage equality first where I think it would have an easy passage. I also think it would have a ripple effect throughout the state and in fact might make it a compelling reason for the rest of the state to get on board. Or am I too radical?
New York is an embarrassment. I partly blame New York gays for not being pro-active in the fight for gay marriage rights. They’re pro-active in other things, such as visiting saunas.
Jason, we could well end up like California if we don’t get our act together. We have to figure out a way to stop any propositions and any other form of referenda from occurring just as Connecticut did, but we can’t do it unless everyone is on board, even those of us who don’t care about marriage.
Robert in NYC,
So true. History shows that rights can easily be taken away from us.
maybe Monserrate will be too busy now to be slashing his girlfriend’s face up with a broken glass
Funny, we didn’t hear ANY mention of this before today. All four of those race-mongering CROOKS IN THE MAFIA were expected to win reelection without much Democratic opposition.
Obviously now Monserrate and Espada can kiss their reelections goodbye. Ruben Diaz, or as I like to call him DON RUBEN should most definitely face a challenger.
The problem? If ANYONE runs against them they will play the race card and accuse gay people of being racist!!!! The outrage is intense. They will gladly use their power to oppress gays and supposedly defend Latinos yet if we DARE challenge them on it or anything else we are automatically accused of being racist! This is political incorrectness run amuck!!!
@Robert, NYC: That’s just it Robert, DON Ruben Diaz, Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada, and Carl Kruger know that this is one of two CRITICAL battlegrounds for marriage equality. If NYC becomes a gay marriage mecca its game over for the right-wing Nazis! New York is the most visible city in the world and unquestionably the world’s capitol with the UN and Wall Street. If New York starts marrying gay couples the entire world will see it in full focus.
These bastards were put in power by the same mob-rule unions who always CLAIM to be progressive but then go behind our backs and vote 55% for Prop 8. They control New York with an iron fist and until they get on board behind real progressives, we will still have the race-mongering scum to control NY Senate with an iron fist!
@Robert, NYC: Marriage is a state issue. NYC has no authority to “pass marriage equality.” It’d be like what Gavin Newsom did in San Francisco – and look how great THAT turned out.
@Prof. Donald Gaudard: “The Justice Department (Obama administration) has until June 29 to respond to the case. If they decide to fight it, then we’ll know that Obama is a snake.”
Ummm… do you have any clue how the Federal government works? The Justice Department has a duty to defend laws. As long as DOMA is on the books, the Justice Department has to defend it, even if Obama doesn’t support the law.
There are many ways Obama can let us down, but this ain’t one of ’em.
@Galefan2004: “It is all these bigoted minorities. I cannot believe that they do not remember where they came from. These guys are pigs.”
What racist garbage.
The problem is not these two piglets but the big porkers, the Euroamerican Democrats and Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures. They include figures like Obama, Biden, who voted for DOMA, the Clintons, McCain and Palin. They have the real power to enforce bigotry against us and do it 24/7/365.
Both Espada and Monserrate face criminal charges. The NY Times reports “Why Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate suddenly defected on Monday afternoon was not immediately clear. Both men are under investigation by the authorities. The state attorney general’s office is investigating a health care agency, Soundview HealthCare Network, that Mr. Espada ran until recently. And Mr. Monserrate, who was indicted on felony assault charges in March stemming from an attack on his companion, would automatically be thrown out of office if convicted.”
No doubt a big part of this maneuver is their attempt to broker a way out of Sing Sing in exchange for their votes.
Boss Tweed would have understood perfectly what’s going on.
Diaz won’t face a primary opponent. His dad is Bronx Borough President. Running a primary challenge is VERY hard in NYS with the Democratic Party. You need a specific amount of signatures, paperwork filed, etc. all done before the local party even anounces who they endorsed (so when it’s an open seat, it’s hard to predict who will be the establishment candidate). However, state Senate elections are in 2010 so anyone looking to run has plenty of time to set up a campaign committee, get signatures, etc.
@Galefan2004: Not all “minorities” are bigots I
m a person of color and a gay rights activist. I know you are probably trying to be funny or tongue and cheek when you post things like that but try to keep in mind it is very disrespectful to the people of color here who are no more responsible for those politicians actions than you are.
I don’t even think “nurture” has anything to do with it either. I was raised by two parents, the middle child of three. Neither of my parents were more dominant than the other and my siblings turned out to be straight. None of us were raised differently either.
I do find it revealing that straights almost always refer to our orientation as a lifestyle, while nobody refers to theirs as such. I’ve asked many straights when they chose theirs and the response was, “I didn’t, I’ve always been this way”. It doesn’t dawn on them its just the same with us. We don’t choose it, it chooses us, both straight and gay and whatever in between. I’m convinced its biological, a matter of genetics, natural selection as it is in the animal kingdom.
@Bitch, please!: Actually, I live in Woodside. Queens Pride is held here every year. Jackson Heights, the neighborhood next door has been had a significant gay population since the vaudeville actors of the 1930’s. Do your research, stop making ignorant judgments. There may not be rainbow flags flying in Woodside, but I’ve never gotten a hate crime, or even a dirty look holding hands with my boy friend. I know TONS of gay people who live in Astoria-I find that sort of geographic “us” and “them” obnoxious and unnecessary.
With regards to the Senate, we don’t know who will come to power once this circus is done. The Democrats are said to be wooing Mons, which would bring the split to 31 to 31. Either way, I agree with several previous posts that the shakeup in Albany is GOOD for marriage equality. The current set-up led to political pandering to socially conservative Dems. Regardless of what I think of the moral character, political leanings, and other stomach churning details about the new leadership (and old in some respect), I find this change an opportunity for gay men and women to cast themselves as less partisan, and lobby on BOTH sides for equal rights.
I was listening to Air America this morning (wednesday) and apparently, a news reporter indicated that marriage equality may be voted on as early as TODAY now that the republicans control the senate. Its quite possible that a handful of moderate republicans who are purported to vote yes may do an about turn and vote no now that their party has some control. If it does come to a vote, I hope I’m pleasantly surprised, but not hopeful.
@PLQNUS: And I lived in East Elmhurst, where each day the neighbors would loudly proclaim their hatred at me, while I was minding my own freaking business. This was done by the mothers, fathers and their children, including anyone else who came to visit these motherfuckers! No, I am not making “ignorant judgments”–I lived through it! As for Woodside, many times when I visited there, the gawking, the finger pointing, and some outright slur-yelling locals made me and my companion very “welcome” indeed! I don’t know about the eutopian part of Queens you live in, but that has not been my experience. And by the way, allowing a Pride parade does not mean that the people accept us. They sometimes have to because of the laws–not because they love us so dearly! The last time I attended the parade, the woman next to me kept calling us freaks and weirdos. She and her companions were out to see the freaks on parade. I, eventually, told her to fuck the hell leave if she couldn’t be more respectful.
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