After discovering yesterday that Governor David Paterson had directed state agencies to recognize same-sex unions from out of state, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno threatened to sue to stop him. Bruno and opponents to Paterson’s latest move claim that he is trying to bypass the Legislature on the gay-marriage issue. “If necessary, we will test it legally,” Bruno told the Daily News. “Really, it looks like he’s doing an end-run around the Legislature,” said Republican Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco. But Tedisco must have a short memory, because gay marriage was actually approved by his legislative body in June of last year, when it voted 85-61 to approve a bill launched by former governor Eliot Spitzer. It’s unknown how the same bill would have fared in the GOP-controlled Senate, because Bruno would not let it come to a vote. He called it “dead on arrival” the minute it passed through the Assembly into his hands.
It’s a cowardly tactic used all too frequently in Albany, on both sides of the aisle (remember when Sheldon Silver wouldn’t put congestion pricing to a vote?). By refusing to put a contentious bill to a vote, party leaders can kill measures that are outside of their agenda while protecting individual legislators from having to take controversial stances and alienate their constituents. But it effectively takes power out of their own hands, too. So when Bruno complains that Paterson has taken the Legislature out of the equation, he really only has himself to blame. The State Senate would have had their chance to voice an opinion (positive or negative) on gay marriage, were it not for Bruno.
Now Bruno has suggested introducing a Defense of Marriage Act to legally reverse Paterson’s mandate. But he knows well that it will never get through the Assembly (they overwhelmingly approved gay marriage just last year, remember?). It’s just another blustery move to make it seem like he is in favor of legislative process.
According to the Times, legal challenges to Paterson’s order face an uphill battle. But if today’s headlines are anything to go by, that won’t slow the public outcry against it. After all, in politics, what you say is more important than what you do, right?