National Commentary

Anything But Straight: For Better or Worse




It turns out that a few Democrats in the New York state senate are floating the idea of backtracking on marriage equality. All I can say is “forget about it.”

Last year, the State Assembly voted 85-61 in favor of marriage equality. Under the control of Republicans, the Senate refused to act. Democratic Gov. David Patterson said that he would sign marriage equality into law if it reached his desk.

Essentially, what the Democrats said was, help us deliver the Senate and marriage will become a reality. The Democrats won and the voters did not punish legislators who voted in favor of gay marriage. Now, it is time to deliver.

Unfortunately, there are a few politicians who seem to want to strand marriage equality at the altar. They appear more concerned with their careers than our human rights. In the New York Times, Senator Liz Krueger used the slim defeat in California as an excuse for postponing a marriage bill.

“We want to get there, but we want to get there the right way or else we risk setting ourselves back another decade,” said Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side. “I think the California proposition and the recognition that entities with large amounts of money who oppose same-sex marriage have decided to be large players in this have a lot of people going back to the drawing board.”

Krueger wants us to wait our turn – yet, again – and we won’t. How naive is she to act surprised that wealthy anti-gay churches gave money and time in California? Did she expect Focus on the Family to march in the gay pride parade if marriage were passed in the Senate? It is time she gets off her rear end and starts passionately defending GLBT people, instead of making lame excuses.

The other alibi for inaction is the economy. Sure, let’s fix the financial fiasco, but there is plenty of time to have a vote on same-sex marriage. Let’s also not forget that legalizing the freedom to marry in New York would be a boon for the local economy. Does the state really want New York City’s immense gay and lesbian population traveling with their fat wallets to Canada and Connecticut (and possibly New Jersey in the near future) to spend on lavish weddings? If anything, the state motto should be, “keep the homos at home.”

And, what is wrong with the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA)? I almost never directly criticize GLBT organizations – especially a group that I admire, like ESPA. But, I was shocked to read the group’s quote in the New York Times, which said the organization was in a “quiet period” and would not respond to questions about the Senate dropping the ball on marriage. (Let’s hope this was a Thanksgiving food coma, and not official policy)

Um, we’ve been in a “quiet period” in the Senate for 40 years. It is time to be vocal and shake the slumber. Does ESPA actually think that anyone would be shocked if the statewide gay group endorsed an early vote on marriage? What kind of signal are they sending to wavering politicians if even they won’t advocate a timely vote in the nation’s most influential newspaper?

If ESPA wanted to play it safe, it could have said, “Our organization is doing everything in its power to make marriage equality a reality as quickly as possible.”

To be fair, ESPA has laid the groundwork for success and I imagine that they will, in the end, deliver. Indeed, reporter Andy Humm writes that ESPA explained to a packed forum on Nov. 24 the group’s marriage strategy. The organization has also created coalitions across the state and has lobbied Albany. What we need is for ESPA to stand firm and continue standing up to waffling politicians who have only their best interests in mind – not that of a key constituency that got them elected.

If New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut all allow-same sex marriage in the near future, it will appear that the Northeast is well on its way to becoming a discrimination free zone. The more marriages that occur, the less anti-gay forces can claim the apocalypse is coming. This can only help matters in California, if the Proposition 8 fight is revisited on the ballot.

When New York democrats agreed to support marriage equality, it was for better or worse. We helped the party do better in the elections, and if they now renege on their vows, the relationship is going to get much worse.

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