Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Fiery Protests But Still No Vote on Same-Sex Marriage
Monday, June 20, 2011
As the last day of the legislative session came to a close in Albany on Monday, there was still no vote in sight on the same-sex marriage bill — one vote shy of becoming law — that, after four days of closed-door sessions, is still languishing in the Republican-led Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver emerged from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office Monday and said the vote — if it happens — would happen later in the week.
Skelos said the dispute over religious exemption language in the bill continued to be a thorn for Republicans who want to see stronger carve-outs.
"We have staff people and members discussing with the governor religious protections," Skelos said.
In the event legislators decide not to return Tuesday, Cuomo can call an "extraordinary session" to force them to gavel back in for the rest of the week.
Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate descended upon the capital. The protestors filled the steamy Senate hallways, chanting, singing hymns and toting banners as sweat gleaming on their faces and, at times, tempers openly clashes.
State police officers escorted Republican Senators weaving through the mass to get to conference.
"In this country, isn’t it great that two opposite sides can stand here and express different opinions?" said Carol Trzcinkski of Brooklyn, who supports the same-sex marriage bill. "We can all sing the same songs because we believe in love. We believe in kindness, do unto others as you would do unto you."
Reverend George Burkinshaw of Elbridge, NY scoffed at her remarks: "They have every right to be free and speak their mind," he said. "They have no right to plagiarize the word of God. They shouldn’t be singing religious music."
Down the hallway, rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan said religion should not play a role in the debate because the bill doesn't govern religious marriage ceremonies.
"This is about the right of people to get a civil marriage license," Kleinbaum said. "What people choose to do in their religious community is a completely different issue."
Advocates against same-sex marriage produced their first professional athlete to rally support for their cause: New York Giants star David Tyree told crowds he wasn't a political person but felt the issue was too important to ignore.
"Marriage is an honorable estate, not created by government, but founded in nature and in nature's God," said Tyree.
Lobbyists against the bill say the state legislature shouldn’t be deciding the issue for New Yorkers – instead, they proposed a referendum to let the people decide for themselves.