Albany Snapshot on Gay Marriage

Monday, May 09, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Liz Benjamin, host of Capital Tonight, counted the votes in Albany and discusses the prospects for allowing gay marriage in New York State.

What Skelos wants

With momentum building behind yet another push for gay marriage in New York, all eyes are on the Republican-controlled State Senate, where such legislation is most likely to fail.

But at a 2010 event with the pro-gay conservative organization Log Cabin Republicans, soon-to-be Senate majority leader Dean Skelos promised he would at least allow a bill to reach the floor, even though he and most other GOP Senators would continue to vote 'no.' Liz Benjamin said that Skelos, by conceding to a vote, might be setting himself and his party up to make political gains toward other priorities at a relatively low cost, assuming the gay marriage bill dies.

At this point, we just don't know what Skelos might gain or lose from allowing a vote. Does he want to clear it out this year because it's not an election year? Take LGBT money that's pouring into Democrats' coffers off the table? Maybe some protection for Republicans who vote 'yes' in a difficult election year in 2012? Maybe he trades with Governor Cuomo for backing off the redistricting reform issue? It's very unclear.

Addabbo's 'No'

There's a dearth of clarity any way you look at this debate. Even within the Democratic ranks, there are enough 'no' votes and undecideds to torpedo the whole effort. Benjamin pointed to Queens Senator Joseph Addabbo as one possible spoiler for the Left this time around.

He says he remains on the fence, but has indicated that he will vote based on what he believes the district wants...He has said that the anti-gay lobby, namely the religious right, has been organizing in a strong way; there's been an uptick of e-mails and calls into his office, the majority of which are 'no.' Pro-gay marriage folks better get on the stick with him: if he feels that his constituency wants a 'no' vote, he will again vote 'no.'

The Assembly example

Little attention has been paid to the State Assembly with regard to gay marriage, but that's because the Democrat-controlled chamber has passed a gay marriage bill twice before and is expected to pass one again. Benjamin said that they've even done it with a few Republican 'yes' votes—perhaps Democrats should put more attention on the Assembly, then, and try to emphasize that a 'no' vote isn't the only safe vote for a GOP Senator.

If you look over in the Assembly, several Republicans in upstate districts voted 'yes' with Democrats on gay marriage in the past and did not lose their seats. Maybe if you vote 'yes' you'll get cash from folks who have proven to be quite generous in terms of campaign contributions. It's very much a liquid sort of situation at the moment.

Cuomo doubles down

One of the few certainties is that Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to get this done. He's got a ton of political capital, and he's been vocal about making gay marriage a priority of his administration. Nothing makes that clearer, Benjamin said, than the fact that Cuomo made it a pillar of his "People First Tour," on which he'll stump for his triune legislative agenda.

It's going to be ethics reform, gay marriage, and the property tax cap—sort of a weird bag, but still, he could've put anything in there. Rent laws could have been in there; he could have wanted to talk about redistricting reform; instead he chose these three issues, so I think there's no question the Governor is clearly personally involved in this and has made it his top priority. Will his personality and poll numbers push it through? It's going to be harder than the budget was.


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Comments [5]

Ed from Larchmont

Yes, religious organizations are exempted, don't have to perform marriages, for example, but other people are not exempted from the implications of making it legal.

May. 09 2011 10:39 AM

Sorry, but WNYC’s gay marriage coverage, both news and discussions, seems wildly excessive.

May. 09 2011 10:36 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Marriage should be abolished and outlawed altogether. What purpose does it serve, other than to enrich lawyers? What we should be discussing is not "gay marriage" but "why marriage" at all! All the primary reasons why marriage was invented in the first place are gone.

Originally, marriage was invented by men in order to know who their progeny was, and to legally establish who their biological heirs were to leave assets, such as land. It was NOT invented by women! It was mainly to keep women in line so as not to sneak out and make babies with other men that they might end up raising by accident. Well, that horse is out of the barn, so why even refer to this quaint but archaic and unnecessary custom?

May. 09 2011 10:09 AM

The legal rights currently associated with the religious farce called "marriage between a man and woman" should be associated with civil union, not religious rite. You want religious leaders to write law, move to the middle east. There was a reason we amended the constitution.

May. 09 2011 09:09 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Assuming for a moment that marriage is between a man and a woman, someone with same sex attraction isn't denied rights: he or she can choose someone of the opposite sex and marry. If that were denied, that would indeed be a violation of civil rights. He or she has the right to have a relationship, of course, under privacy, but there are many relationships that aren't called marriage.

May. 09 2011 08:07 AM

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