gay marriage

A smarter strategy on gay marriage

Prominent gay activist Ethan Geto told New York magazine that if the NY Senate Democrats don't bring same-sex marriage to a vote, there will be "hell to pay. The gay community is going to walk away en masse." Of course, having them walk away one-by-one is what the Senate is trying to prevent by stalling a vote. That is, if senators are forced to vote, they will put themselves on the record, and gay activists will divide them into two groups for the fall 2010 elections. Supporters will receive cash donations -- and the opponents, who knows? Activist organization Empire State Pride Agenda has not revealed its strategies to target opponents next year -- at least not in public.

Few senators will even say where they stand on gay marriage, for fear of putting themselves in the sights of one side or the other. The Catholic Church holds a lot of power on Long Island. ESPA, Geto and others want a floor vote in the Senate, so they can count their friends. That's ironic, isn't it? Gay advocates trying to "out" New York's elected officials.

Rather than taking a vote of conscience, Senate Democrats would apparently prefer to protect their jobs. Talk about unconscionable. People in public life should be prepared to say what they believe.

Geto's statement today ups the ante by threatening to work against the entire Democratic caucus if they don't hold a vote -- or maybe just the leadership that prevents the vote from coming to the floor. It's a potentially successful new tactic. Will it work? Stay tuned.

'Gang of Three' split over same-sex marriage

People who are counting heads in the New York State Senate say that a vote to legalize same-sex marriage will be very close -- if the bill makes it to the floor at all. The issue was nearly considered last spring, just before the Senate Republican coup knocked all agendas off the table. Now, advocates led by the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) are prepping for a Nov. 10 special session of the legislature to try again. As I've said before, the vote could fill an important political need for Gov. David Paterson and anyone who wants to see him step aside in 2010, such as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

ESPA won't say who among the state senators it is counting on its side. But two sources say that troubled Sen. Hiram Monserrate's name is in ESPA's "yes" column.

Monserrate -- a member of the senate's so-called "Gang of Three" rogue members -- hasn't said much publicly since a Queens judge concluded he was guilty of a violent misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend, and political folks began calling for his ouster. One of the people who rushed to Monserrate's rescue is Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a minister who is practically a single-issue voter on the subject of same-sex marriage. He based his support for former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith on a reported promise Smith made to block a marriage bill from coming to the senate floor.

The recent dynamics would appear to at least shift Monserrate's vote to the questionable column. Joshua Meltzer, an ESPA spokesman, says that although he can't talk about the senator's position, he would point to Sen. Pedro Espada as another 'Gang' member who has gone his own way to co-sponsor the marriage bill in the senate.

But I'm predicting that Monserrate will vote with Diaz in the end. With a special senate committee considering his fate, Monserrate is going to need every friend he can get on the inside.

Gay marriage as farewell

Gov. David Paterson's newfound energy to pass a same-sex marriage bill may look like a political resurgence. But in reality, it could serve as one of the final acts of his governorship. Since the Obama White House apparently conveyed its desire in mid-September that Paterson not run for governor in 2010, some Democrats have been searching for legacy accomplishments that would give Paterson a graceful exit.

Permitting gay marriage in New York is perfectly on point for this governor, considering his socially progressive past as the State Senate Minority Leader. He championed same-sex marriage then. Passing this legislation would restore New York, somewhat, to its glory days as a leader in social causes. Six other states have already passed similar measures. Seventh isn't first -- but it's better than never.

State Senate Democrats, in particular, have criticized Paterson for abandoning his progressive roots when he rose to governor. This legislation would help heal that fissure and begin writing a positive legacy for the governor.