Yesterday, bill No. A07732 was posted on the electronic voting board of the New York State Assembly. Its wording was perhaps deliberately simple: "Relates to individuals' ability to marry." But the passage of the measure, the one that would give gay couples in the state the right to wed and share in the 1,324 rights currently afforded to straight couples but denied to them, was simple enough in reality. The bill made it through the body on a 89 to 52 vote, which included the approval of five Republicans. Two of those Republicans had voted against marriage equality when it last passed in 2007, and three more Democrats also switched their votes. North Country Republican Janet Duprey said she was persuaded to change her opinion by the simple arguments of a lesbian couple who lived on her street. “They are asking only for equal protection under the law,” she explained yesterday. “They deserve no less than to have the same rights and ability to share their love."
The bill, originally introduced by Governor David Paterson, is now in the hands of the State Senate, where its passage is in doubt. Marriage-equality activists, led by the Empire State Pride Agenda, are redoubling their lobbying efforts. With senators whose districts overlap with Assembly members like Duprey, advocates have been arguing that a "yes" vote on the bill won't be a political poison pill. ESPA also plans to launch a statewide advertising campaign featuring a 30-second spot centered around families.
Meanwhile, Times writer Jeremy Peters reports that the state Conservative Party has been threatening to take away their ballot line from Republican senators who support the bill, which in some cases may count as thousands of votes. The state Republican Party has said it will allow its members to vote with their consciences, and will not try to enforce party-line unity.
Rallies both for and against are currently being planned. Hispanic clergy have organized a protest of the measure for this Sunday outside of Governor Paterson's Manhattan office. Among the attendees will be minister Ruben Diaz Sr., a very vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. A similar rally is also being planned for June (when the deadline for a Senate vote approaches) in Albany by the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. Meanwhile, proponents of marriage equality are planning a massive rally of their own, with Broadway performances, (natch) on Sixth Avenue at 44th this Sunday evening.
The State Senate has until the legislative session ends on June 20 to vote on the measure. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has said he wouldn't let it take the floor until he was confident all the votes to ensure its passage were in place.