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New York State Senate Rejects Gay Marriage Bill

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A bill to legalize same sex marriage in the New York State Senate was defeated, 38-24, with no Republicans voting in favor of the measure. Eight Democrats voted against the bill.

Supporters expressed bitter disappointment and the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tom Duane, said he was betrayed by Republican Senators who promised him they'd vote yes to legalize gay marriage, that in the end voted no.

“Today’s vote against marriage equality makes me very angry," Duane said in a statement. "Promises made were not honored."

Gov. David Paterson, who had urged the vote to take place even if the outcome was uncertain, equated the setback with the civil rights struggle.

"I am disappointed but not daunted, and we will continue to fight so that gay and lesbian citizens, those of the same sex who want to marry, can do this in peace," Paterson says.

At 38-24, the final margin was wider than many observers expected.

Reverend Jason McGuire is the Executive Director of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical organization that lobbied against the bill until 2 a.m. in Albany last night.

"I tell you, we were very close to the count, and so we were anticipating about 37 votes against the legislation. To pick up 38 was just a little extra icing on the cake," McGuire says.

Ethan Geto, a gay rights activist, says today's vote was the result of last-minute defections by certain senators and a reminder of how political the issue of gay marriage is. Geto says two or three Republicans told gay rights advocates that they would probably vote yes. In the end, not a single Republican supported the bill this afternoon.

"Those Republicans, and even more than those two or three, had privately expressed on more than one occasion that they favored gay marriage, and they thought it was a basic human rights issue, so that clearly means it was not a vote of conscience," Geto says. "It was a very political vote."

Geto says today's vote will likely hurt prospects for gay marriage to be legalized in New Jersey now.

Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. A New Hampshire law takes effect January 1.

In New York, Senate Democratic leaders say they will have to talk long and hard with members and know that they have a lot of work to do before the measure can be brought back to the floor for another try.

For more on the vote, and to voice your reaction, visit the WNYC News Blog.

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