NEW YORK-When a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state of New York came before the state senate Wednesday, only one senator-Ruben Diaz, a Democrat who is also a minister from the Bronx-spoke against it during debate. But when the roll call came, 38 of the silent senators voted against the bill while only 24 senators voted in favor of it. The defeat belied Democratic assurances that they had the votes to legalize gay marriage.
Sen. Thomas Duane-the gay Manhattan Democrat who has pushed the vote-has long claimed he had the votes needed to pass the legislation, but traditional marriage advocates have said he was bluffing. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), said the margin today was about what his conservative group expected and called it unfair of Duane and others to claim they had the votes: "They never had them and they shouldn't take advantage of people that way."
Log Cabin Republicans certainly sounded betrayed in a statement saying they were "deeply saddened that the Democratic conference failed to secure the votes they promised." On the other side, Diaz also expressed feelings of betrayal when he called it "treason" that the Democratic leadership brought the legislation to a vote.
Not a single Republican voted for the bill, although two senators who were once undecided-Democrats David Valesky and Brian Foley-voted for it. Valesky once opposed gay marriage but during the Senate debate he emphasized, "This is not a matter of religion." He stressed that the bill would not violate matters of conscience or compel churches to solemnize gay marriages. Andrew Russo, one of the Republicans challenging Valesky for reelection, has already made it a campaign issue in a statement calling Valesky's vote part of a "disturbing pattern of putting the interests of his New York City leadership ahead of the interests of the constituents he's supposed to represent."
When Republicans took control of the Senate by convincing Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate to caucus with them, traditional marriage advocates assumed the legislation was dead. But then Espada promised a vote on same-sex marriage to sway more Democrats to his side. Duane considered Espada's offer but decided against it. Today Espada spoke in favor of the legislation.
Religion came up repeatedly during the debate, with senators stressing that the bill was not a religious matter and that it would not affect churches' freedom to reject same-sex marriages. "When I walk through these doors, my Bible stays out," said Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn. Diaz said the opposite, explaining his vote: "That's the wrong statement. You should carry your Bible all the time."
McGuire said NYCF did not gather a large group of supporters today since he already felt that traditional marriage had the momentum it needed, but he said every seat in the gallery was filled with advocates on both sides. "It was a good day for marriage in New York," McGuire add.