Main | Friday, September 19, 2008

If Democrats Control The NYS Senate, What Next For Marriage Equality?

New York Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), who is poised to take over the majority leadership role if Democrats take control of the state Senate in November, yesterday waffled when asked if he would vigorously pursue marriage equality when the day comes.
Although he reiterated his personal support of gay marriage (a position that was in question back when he first became minority leader), Smith declined to say definitively how or when he might address this particular topic if he becomes majority leader - a move that will no doubt disappoint some of the big gay donors who are helping to bankroll the Democrats' effort to flip the chamber this year.

"It's a good question," Smith said. "But I'd rather wait to see what seats I have, you know, who are my members, and at that time, then we can talk."

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer had a program bill to legalize gay marriage, and Gov. David Paterson has been way out front on this issue, promising to push hard for legalization and recently winning a court case that upheld his directive that state agencies recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside New York.
Earlier this week the current majority leader, right winger Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), made an "unprecedented" appearance at a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser, where Skelos made no mention of gay marriage, which he vehemently opposes. (During the event the LCR did honor three Republican Assembly members who last year voted in favor of marriage equality.)

Skelos was on hand to urge support for openly gay Republican candidate John Chromczak (pictured at right), an LCR member who is running against another newcomer, Democrat Dan Squadron, for the Senate district covering lower Manhattan and eastern Brooklyn. Chromczak is the first openly gay Republican to run for state Senate. Both Squadron and Chromczak support gay marriage, which may present a conundrum for gay progressives in that district, as the Stonewall Democrats did not support Squadron in the primary, instead pushing for now-ousted 30-year veteran Sen. Marty Connor. However the Victory Fund makes no mention of openly gay Chromczak on their site, so neither candidate apparently has the favor of LGBT politicos.

As long as Skelos remains Senate majority leader (a position he only took over in June when Sen. Joe Bruno retired), the issue of marriage equality will not be allowed to come to a vote. However the Republicans hold a slim 31-29 majority and Democrats are optimistic that they will gain control in November. Still, with Malcolm Smith's tepid enthusiasm, it may be far from a done deal. Last year the lower house overwhelmingly approved marriage equality in New York.

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