NY Assembly Approves Marriage Equality

We’ve been waiting for the New York legislature to vote on the issue of marriage equality since Governor Paterson introduced the bill in April. Well, it jumped the first hurdle yesterday as the state Assembly passed the bill by a count of 89-52. From the New York Times:

Supporters of the bill aggressively sought new votes, particularly from Assembly members whose districts lie within Senate districts where a senator’s vote is believed to be in play. As a matter of strategy, same-sex marriage advocates said that they hoped to use those votes as a way to leverage support from senators who are worried that supporting the measure could cost them politically.

“The margin of victory and the balance of where the people come from who voted for this is broadening,” said Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper West Side who led the effort in the Assembly to gain support for the bill. “The state is demanding that we provide equality, and that’s the message here.”

Pressure was coming from both sides of the debate, with an additional and …interesting push from New York’s Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party is also applying pressure: it has threatened to strip its party affiliation and its ballot line from any politician who votes for same-sex marriage.

“We can’t look the other way,” said Michael R. Long, the party’s chairman, who added that he had informed the Republican leaders of the Senate and the Assembly of his threat to take away the Conservative ballot line — which in some elections can mean the difference of thousands of votes — from anyone who votes yes on the bill.

Some assembly members talked to New York’s Capital News about why they changed their votes.

“It’s important to be able to change your vote. When you get more information you understand something better,” said Assemblywoman Sandra Galef.

Galef is one of five members that changed their votes from no to yes this year. She says she was in support of civil unions, but now believes everyone should have the same rights she and her own children have.

“They really haven’t brought equity to partnerships and my goal from the very beginning was to have equity,” said Galef.

North Country Republican Janet Duprey also opposed gay marriage, favoring civil unions instead, but says her constituents convinced her otherwise.

“They’re not asking or religious ceremonies, they’re not asking to affect anybody’s religion. It’s certainly not going to affect my marriage of almost 42 years. They just want to have equality,” said Duprey.

There were also seven assembly members that did not vote, several of which voted no in 2007. Bill sponsor Danny O’Donnell says they’re on the fence now, but won’t be next time around, if there is a next time around.

“Since the vote took place, four or five republicans have already come to me to tell me that next time they’ll vote yes. So there’s movement on this issue. I can feel it and I’m very pleased with that movement,” said O’Donnell.

Now the bill moves to the Senate, where it has an uphill battle. The Senate vote is expected to come in the next few weeks.