There is lots happening surrounding the push for gay marriage in the state of New York, and rather than post many entries about the various vantage points and links to interesting stories, below is a sort of compendium of the events over the last few weeks.
New York State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell introduced a bill legalizing same-sex marriage last week (read the bill here) and Reuters reported that New York's governor, Catholic Andrew Cuomo, went on record as a supporter of the legislation:
In a push to legalize same-sex marriage, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a closed-door strategist, allowing gay rights groups to own the public campaign and also the loss that could result if legislation fails this year.
Cuomo has stopped short of making himself the public face of the campaign, instead leaving on-the-ground organizing to groups that have lobbied for marriage equality for years.
He pulled those disparate groups together in closed-door sessions at the Capitol, and they came out forming an umbrella group called New Yorkers United for Marriage.
Politico's Ben Smith wonders if Cuomo's support for marriage equality is an attempt to gain traction with liberal Democrats as he ponders a run for the White House in 2016, a tactic that stands in sharp contrast to Democrats who in 2008 tried to distance themselves as far as possible from marriage equality, coming out in support only of civil unions.
A few different polls, when read together, offer a fuzzy picture of public support for gay marriage in New York. A Quinnipiac College poll in January found 56% of New Yorkers supporting marriage equality, and this finding is echoed by a Siena College poll that was released last month, in which 58% of the public supporting gay marriage. But a NY1 poll out this month shows support for marriage peaking at 50%, with 25% wanting only civil union recognition of same-sex relationships, and another 25% saying there should be no legal recognition at all.
Individual support for marriage equality in New York seems a bit more diverse than might be expected.
Former President Bill Clinton, who signed into law both the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell, expressed his support:
For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality.
Clinton joins his daughter Chelsea, who has long been a proponent of gay marriage, even as his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, continues to support civil unions, the position she espoused during her 2008 presidential campaign.
The New York Times reports that that conservative Republican donors are giving large donations to the pro-gay marriage campaign:
Their behind-the-scenes financial support — about $1 million in donations, delivered in recent weeks to a new coalition of gay rights organizations — could alter the political calculus of Albany lawmakers, especially the Republican state senators in whose hands the fate of gay marriage rests.
The donors represent some of New York’s wealthiest and most politically active figures and include Paul E. Singer, a hedge fund manager and top-tier Republican donor, as well as two other financiers, Steven A. Cohen and Clifford S. Asness.
Religious leaders seem split on the issue. WNYC reports on a coalition of over 700 religious leaders, mostly representing mainline Protestant communities, who marched on Albany earlier this month in support of marriage equality:
Seven hundred and twenty seven priests, ministers, and rabbis signed a letter backing the legalization of same-sex marriage, and many came to the Capitol to make the case to lawmakers. Robb Smith of Interfaith Impact of New York says it’s important to show Senators that there is no one religious view of gay marriage. And he says attitudes about gay marriage have changed.
Meanwhile, another Times article notes that, "Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish leaders, determined to head off momentum for same-sex marriage in Albany, say they are mobilizing an extensive campaign to block legislation that would make New York the sixth state to allow gay men and lesbians to wed."
Just today, New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan penned a blog post in which he highlighted the Catholic Church's affirmation that gay men and women are to be treated with respect, while reiterating the church's position against gay-marriage, suggesting that legalizing gay marriage is engaging in "Orwellian social engineering."
Also today, the National Organization for Marriage held a rally in the Bronx led by an anti-gay marriage state senator, Reuben Diaz Senior, while marriage equality proponents held a counter rally in Manhattan.
The New York State Assembly has passed gay marriage legislation three times in the past, but it was defeated in the Republican controlled state senate. But with momemtum and public opinion seemingly supporting marriage equality, and the governor's vocal support, there is a greater chance that it could become a reality in New York this year, though Cuomo said last week that he would not push for a vote just to have a vote. He advocates holding off until there is certainty that the votes are there to pass the legislation, and pro-gay marriage US Senator Kirsten Gllibrand is reaching out to undecided state senators to try to sway them.
If there is a vote and legislation is passed, New York will join six other states and the District of Columbia in offering same-sex marriage.
Michael J. O'Loughlin