in the New York State Senate joined all 30 Republicans in voting no, producing a lopsided and unexpected 38 to 24 rejection of the bill. The
indicates that a factor in the vote was that some legislators didn’t want to push such a contentious new law on the state given the bad economy. Maybe it’s true after all that an excess of wealth has the effect of buffering a society from reality, leading it into wild carelessness in such areas as homosexual rights and immigration, and that the only way for a society to draw back from suicidal liberalism is to be less wealthy.
New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill
ALBANY—The New York State Senate decisively rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have allowed gay couples to wed, providing a major victory for those who oppose same-sex marriage and underscoring the deep and passionate divisions surrounding the issue.
The 38-to-24 vote startled proponents of the bill and signaled that political momentum, at least right now, had shifted against same-sex marriage, even in heavily Democratic New York. It followed more than a year of lobbying by gay rights organizations, who steered close to $1 million into New York legislative races to boost support for the measure.
Senators who voted against the measure said the public was gripped by economic anxiety and remained uneasy about changing the state’s definition of marriage.
“Certainly this is an emotional issue and an important issue for many New Yorkers,” said Senator Tom Libous, the deputy Republican leader. “I just don’t think the majority care too much about it at this time because they’re out of work, they want to see the state reduce spending, and they are having a hard time making ends meet. And I don’t mean to sound callous, but that’s true.”
The defeat, which followed a stirring, tearful and at times very personal debate, all but ensures that the issue is dead in New York until at least 2011, when a new Legislature will be installed.
Since 2003, seven states, including three that border New York, have legalized same-sex marriage. But in two of the seven—California last year and Maine last month—statewide referendums have restricted marriage to straight couples, prohibiting gay nuptials. Pollsters say that while support generally is building for same-sex marriage, especially as the electorate ages, voters resist when they fear the issue is being pushed too fast.
In Albany on Wednesday, proponents had believed going into the vote that they could attract as many as 35 supporters to the measure; at their most pessimistic, they said they would draw at least 26. They had the support of Gov. David A. Paterson, who had publicly championed the bill, along with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Senate Democratic leadership.
The defeat revealed stark divides: All 30 of the Republican senators opposed the bill, as did most of the members from upstate New York and Long Island. Support was heaviest among members from New York City and Westchester County and among the Senate’s 10 black members. Seven of the Senate’s 10 women voted for it.
“I’m a woman and a Jew and so I know about discrimination,” said Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.
Senators who are considered politically vulnerable also voted almost uniformly against the bill, including four first-term Democrats. All but one of those whose districts border or lie within the 23rd Congressional District, where the marriage issue erupted in a recent special election, opposed it. In that race, a Republican who supported gay marriage withdrew after an uproar from conservatives in her district.
“I think that there were political forces that in some respects intimidated some of those who voted,” said Mr. Paterson. “I think if there’d actually been a conscience vote we’d be celebrating marriage equality right now.”
While gay rights supporters such as Mr. Paterson had prominently pushed for passage, the opposition was less visible but ultimately more potent. That was reflected in the floor debate Wednesday: Opponents remained mostly silent; all but one of those who spoke on the floor supported the measure.
The state’s Roman Catholic bishops had consistently lobbied for its defeat, however, and after the vote released a statement applauding the move.
“Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable,” Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in the statement. “However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”
Several supporters said they felt they had been betrayed by senators who promised to vote yes but then, reluctant to support an issue as politically freighted as same-sex marriage if they could avoid it, switched their votes on the floor when it became evident the bill would lose.
“This is the worst example of political cowardice I’ve ever seen,” said Senator Kevin S. Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat. “Clearly people said things prior to coming to the floor and behaved differently.”
Republican advocates who supported the bill insisted that the agreement they struck with Democrats called for Democrats, who have 32 seats in the 62-member Senate, to deliver enough support so only a handful of Republicans were needed to take such a politically risky vote.
“Several Republicans wanted to vote for this,” said Jeff Cook, a legislative adviser for the Log Cabin Republicans. “But those Republicans aren’t willing to take a tough political vote when the bill has no chance of passage. And that’s the political reality.”
It is rare for legislation to reach the floor in Albany when passage is not all but assured. And initially, gay rights advocates resisted bringing this bill to a vote, fearing the consequences of a defeat. But they shifted that strategy over time, becoming convinced that an up or down vote was necessary so they could finally know which senators supported the bill.
That was in part because gay rights groups, which have become major financial players in state politics, wanted to know which senators they should back in the future and which ones to target for defeat.
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest gay rights group, hinted that senators who voted against the bill on Wednesday could face repercussions. And Christine C. Quinn, the New York City Council speaker, echoed that sentiment, saying, “Anybody who thinks that by casting a no vote they’re putting this issue to bed, they’re making a massive miscalculation.”
Polls suggest that voters in New York favor same-sex marriage, though the electorate is clearly split. A poll released Wednesday by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie showed that 51 percent of registered voters supported same-sex marriage while 42 percent opposed it.
On Wednesday, as news of the vote made its way to demonstrators standing outside the Senate chamber, some erupted in angry chants of “Equal rights!” and surrounded a senator who opposed the measure.
Christopher C. writes: