Wednesday saw lawmakers in New York’s Democratically-controlled Assembly pass Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s program bill to legalize marriage equality by a bipartisan 80-63 vote. The four hour debate ranged from the impassioned but largely civil to the absolute gaga… Lady Gaga that is, when the pop mega-star’s name (and face) made a surprise appearance.
Orthodox Jewish assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Boro Park) started off seriously enough. Keen to ward off accusations that he might be closed-minded for saying his religion forbids him approving the bill, Hikind went on the offensive saying that criticism for his belief against marriage equality was “unfair” because redefining marriage is “unbelievable” and, he argued, an affront to God.
He then proceeded to pull out a poster of Mother Monster. While holding the picture of Gaga, in which she appeared wearing her now famous telephone head adornment, Hikind said: “When Lady Gaga got involved and told us and said we should support gay marriage, I said, you know, Lady Gaga, she is an example of how I should lead my life and how I should behave.”
Other lawmakers distanced themselves from this rhetoric, with Joel Miller (R-I-C) saying the religious argument against marriage equality was “the most ridiculous” he had ever heard and that such lines of reasoning would eventually lead to bloodshed.
Naomi Rivera, who represents the same South Bronx area as Ruben Diaz Sr., the only Democratic senator to oppose the bill, said she had received thousands of messages against it, but she would yes for the sake of her 11-year-old child.
“I’ve been given the responsibility to help pave the way for the future generation for my son,” she said.
During the campaign, advocates have repeatedly referred to polls that show record majorities of New York voters now support marriage equality. At least one surprise vote provided evidence of the point.
“Things change,” said Nick Perry of Brooklyn, who voted against the bill three previous times, as he cast his first yes vote to applause in the chamber.
The Assembly was able to vote on the bill after speaker Sheldon Silver sent a message of necessity to Gov. Cuomo in order to bypass the standard three-day waiting period on a program bill, highlighting that the June 20 end of session deadline is fast approaching.
With that in mind, it is still not clear whether Senate Republicans, who enjoy a slim majority in the upper chamber, will even allow the bill to come to the Senate floor.
If the bill does reach the floor, advocates are cautiously optimistic that marriage equality has the votes to pass. As of Tuesday, 31 votes have been secured with two Republican senators making a commitment to passing the legislation. One more vote is needed to pass the legislation and other Republican senators have reportedly admitted that four or possibly five conservative senators may be inclined to vote for the bill, especially if further religious carveouts are made. Read more on that here.
TAKE ACTION: Live in New York? Contact your senators today and tell them you support marriage equality.
For previous coverage of efforts to legalize marriage equality in New York, please click here.