New York Senate Votes Yes on Marriage Equality

Today is a historic day. Just three hours ago, the New York Senate voted in favor of the marriage equality bill 33-29. This makes New York the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. There has been a lot of controversy on this bill, with the biggest issue being the religious protections it provides. Republicans were worried that religious leaders would be penalized for their beliefs if they refused to perform same-sex ceremonies and for a while it looked like the bill wouldn’t even come to a vote this session.

Well, it looks like the amendments to the religious protections’ section appeased the senate’s concerns because the bill passed with thunderous applause. Meanwhile, I was one of 48,000 people who tuned in to the live stream. Twenty-nine Democrats and four Republicans voted yes on the bill, while all but one of the no votes were from Republicans. While, the Republicans who voted against marriage equality definitely weren’t pleased with the outcome, the loudest outcry came from the lone “no” Democrat, Ruben Diaz Sr, who took the stand and told the senate president he should be ashamed of himself for supporting the bill. He also called the “yes” Republicans turncoats.

With a bill of this importance, one had to realized that there would be a long drawn out discussion once the results were announced. Indeed, it seemed like not one senator would be able to stick to his allotted two minute explanation of his vote. Listening to the senate president try to guide these men’s points to conclusion, I was starting to be reminded of the Oscar’s acceptance speeches. I was waiting for the music to queue up.

There were a couple of speeches that stuck with me, though. The two that moved me the most were openly gay Democrat Tom Duane of Manhattan and  Republican Mark Grisanti of Buffalo.

Duane gave a very emotional speech relating the story of his life and family. He talked about coming out to his Catholic parents and his fight for gay rights. He mentioned that his nieces and nephews already thought of him and his partner as married. He also said that he and his partner, Louis, were a family, but that marriage would strengthen that family even more.

Grisanti”s speech really made me think and even reconsider a few points. I’m the first to admit that sometimes my brain is so far in the left corner, it kind of blinds me to everything else, but I could really see Saland’s point of view. He talked about being raised Catholic and how his conservative upbringing taught him that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, he also mentioned that he believes in equal rights, so while he doesn’t like the word “marriage” for same-sex couples, he also doesn’t want to deny them the 1138 extra benefits that heterosexual marriages have. He voted against the bill in 2009, but this time he did a lot of research on the matter and weighed the pros and cons. He was undecided for a while. He met with a lot of people on both sides of the issue. A lot of his concerns also stemmed from the debate on the religious protections issue. Once edits were made to the bill, he felt that religious leaders were sufficiently immune to discrimination suits if they declined to perform same-sex ceremonies based on their beliefs. And when push came to shove, he decided that the need for equal rights outweighed the risk of sharing the word “marriage.”

If anyone wants to watch Grisanti’s speech, here it is:

Republican senator Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsi’s vote in favor of the bill marked the victory. He was the 32nd senator to vote yes, which secured the majority. Just four days ago, Governor Cuomo was one vote shy of the needed 32. He campaigned hard for those last votes. That, in addition to the push we made for all New Yorkers to call their senators, got the final needed votes. See? We can make a difference. This is definitely a significant step in the right direction for equality. New York was the largest state to vote in favor of same-sex marriage. It officially doubles the number of same-sex couples who can get married now. I know we have a long way to go, but for a second, lets enjoy this victory. We’ll start working on the other states tomorrow…like California.

Hey, is anyone out there involved with the NOH8 Campaign? If anyone isn’t aware, they’re a great organization that’s campaigning against prop 8 in California. If you’ve ever seen those gorgeous portraits where the models have duct tape over their mouths and NOH8 on their faces, that’s them. If anyone’s in the London, UK area, they’re doing an open photo shoot at the Soho Hotel on July 3. You should check it out. All proceeds go to the campaign. They’re also going to be at the W Montreal in Montreal on July 30 and in Philadelphia, PA on August 5. There aren’t any details on the locale for Philly yet, however, since I’m in Maryland, I might be there. Let me know if anyone else will be. Also, does anyone know of any upcoming rallies or events, either involving the NOH8 campaign or another organization against Prop 8, that are coming up in California?

I’ll be signing off for now, but in the meantime, to check out more information on the NOH8 campaign, please visit:

http://www.noh8campaign.com/

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