New York Governor David Paterson has revealed that he will return to the gay marriage bill that got lost during June’s Senate leadership tussle, bringing the possibility of New York State allowing gay marriage before the end of the year right back into the mix:
“I am anticipating a special session and I am anticipating this is one of the issues that we will address,” Paterson told The Advocate, indicating that, rather than bringing the bill to the floor when the senate is called back into session this week, Paterson will instead call a special session later in the month.
A counterpart to the gay marriage bill passed the New York Assembly earlier this year by a vote of 89-52, but after a leadership coup in the New York Senate, which saw a brief period in which neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had the majority before the Democrat majority was restored, the bill was simply ignored.
Speaking about his reasons for returning to the bill, Governor Paterson said:
“I felt that the whole fight over the coup denied the people of New York resolution on a number of issues that were very controversial and had been discussed and advocated for… I think that we owe the public a proper disposition on those pieces of legislation, and one of those was marriage equality.”
This announcement is interesting on two fronts.
Paterson was heavily criticized by some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community for not making clear his plans regarding the gay marriage bill when the talk of special sessions came up earlier in the year.
Although some continue to believe that Paterson is playing gay marriage as a popularity card, others are keen to point out that civil rights issues such as same-sex marriage are not the best way to win favor with the wider electorate, even if LGBTs are a powerful force in Albany itself.
But in announcing his intentions now, Paterson has clearly set out an agenda for action on gay marriage without the complication of giving a precise date, allowing him some room to maneuver whilst hopefully placating those that might have criticized him a second time around.
Secondly, during a special session Paterson is able to choose what is put on the agenda for that session, but he can not force lawmakers to take action on those items. That said, the gay marriage bill may go to the senate floor by default because once it is put on the so-called “active” list of a session agenda, it is usual practice for a bill to go through the rules committee and then move de facto to the floor.
In this way Gov. Paterson, who was also criticized for the way in which he tried to break the Senate leadership stalemate, can create the conditions of a vote without forcing the issue, a distance that may provide less resistance from senators who are undecided on the bill, but perhaps aren’t Gov. Paterson’s biggest fans.
This is vital because the gay marriage bill requires 32 votes to pass and it is well known that not all Democrats support the measure. This means that support from both the Senate President Malcolm Smith and the Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. will be required if the bill is to have any chance of success.
Both men have indicated support for marriage equality in the past but with the current state of the New York Senate and the projected $2.1 billion budget deficit they are having to deal with, it may be that such support might not be as forthcoming as Gov. Paterson would hope.
Openly gay senator Tom Duane (D) is still upbeat about the bill passing though, telling The Washington Blade:
“I remain optimistic that it’ll pass this year and it’ll pass with bipartisan support.”
Governor Paterson has pledged to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Citizen of New York State? It is vital that your senators know that you support marriage equality. You can tell them by picking up the phone and giving their office a call. It’s really quick and easy.
Here are some links to help: