State Senate Rejects Same-Sex Marriage

After an emotional debate on senate floor, measure is defeated by wider than expected margin

By Michael Gormley, Melissa Russo, and Victoria Cavaliere
|  Thursday, Dec 3, 2009  |  Updated 8:16 AM EDT
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Christine Quinn  Talks About Failure of Gay Marriage Bill

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Christine Quinn Talks About Failure of Gay Marriage Bill

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn speaks about her disappointment following the defeat of the gay marriage bill in Albany.

Christine Quinn Talks About Failure of Gay Marriage Bill

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn speaks about her disappointment following the defeat of the gay marriage bill in Albany.
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The New York State Senate voted down a same sex marriage bill yesterday, after the Assembly had passed it and the Governor was ready sign the measure.

The vote was defeated 38 to 24. Thirty-two votes were needed to pass the bill in the Democratically controlled Senate, but some of the 32 Democrats in the Senate were opposed to the measure.

If the Senate had adopted it and Gov. David Paterson signed as he said he would, New York would have become the sixth state where same sex marriage is legal.

The day had a feeling of hope for supporters of same sex marriage -- but those hopes were dashed once again in the Senate.

"My partner and I will are not able to legally marry in New York State," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement after the vote. "My same-sex neighbors and constituents are not able to legally marry in New York State. But we will continue to work, to fight and to educate."

After the vote, Paterson called Wednesday one of his saddest days in 20 years of public service and he criticized senators who he said support gay marriage but "didn't have the intestinal fortitude to vote for it.

Senate sponsor Thomas Duane, a Manhattan Democrat and the Legislature's first openly gay member, expressed anger and disappointment. "I wasn't expecting betrayal," he said.

During debate, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz, a conservative minister from the Bronx, urged his colleagues to reject the bill.

"To the Republicans, remember your roots, remember your values, remember your tradition of family values," Diaz said. "Join me, a Democrat. Join me, a Hispanic. Join me, a Puerto Rican. Join me, a black and minority. Join me as a senator of New York and say no."

But Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, challenged lawmakers to set aside their personal religious beliefs. He asked them to remember that once even slavery was the norm.

"When I walk through these doors, my Bible stays out," Adams said. "We have the legacy for setting the tone for the rest of the country. This is an important issue. We are not going to sit on the sidelines."

The state Assembly approved the bill earlier this year, and passed the measure again Wednesday, 88-51, a procedural move to allow the Senate to vote on it.

Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and a leader in the majority, said the legislation would need Republican votes because of opposition from some of the chamber's Democrats.

Krueger said gay rights advocates believed they had at least a few Republican votes.

"I'm optimistic," Krueger said. "The question is are the Republican votes there."

Republican Sen. Thomas Morahan said his conference hadn't taken a head count as of Wednesday morning and he wasn't sure enough GOP senators would support the measure.

A Marist College poll released Wednesday showed 51 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing gay marriage, while 42 percent opposed the measure. The poll questioned 805 registered voters Nov. 12-16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.

Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. A New Hampshire law legalizing the practice takes effect Jan. 1. Thirty-four states lack any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

During debate, openly gay Senator Thomas K. Duane (D-Manhattan), pointed out that the legislature should not wait for any more states to lead the way, pointing out that New Jersey is close to a gay-marriage bill as well.

"They may have the Jets, they may have the Giants, but they're not taking this away from us. We're beating New Jersey," said Duane, who was at times emotional, and at times comical.

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