Lone Democrat Keeping NY One Vote Shy of Same-Sex Marriage, For Now
The New York State Assembly recently approved a bill that would expand marriage to include same-sex couples. The Marriage Equality Act headed to the Senate where it is one vote short of the 32 needed for passage. That vote will need to be a Republican because there is just one Democrat opponent left—Senator Rubén Díaz, one of the most vocal opponents to same-sex marriage in the legislature.
"I am blessed to serve as a Pentecostal minister and I celebrate this!" Díaz said. "As a Christian … I will continue to defend the teachings of the Bible and oppose homosexual marriage. As a Member of the New York State Senate, I will continue to defend the definition of New York's marriage laws to be between a man and a woman."
Díaz's outspoken position on same-sex marriage has made him the target of gay rights groups. He even became the subject of a gay writing contest: "[Expletive] Ruben Diaz: Gay Erotica Featuring NYC's Number One Bigot."
With Díaz voting "no," proponents are now trying to convince one more Republican to back the bill. Ironically, a similar bill failed in a Democratic-controlled Senate two years ago. This time around, vote switching by a handful of legislators from both parties may mean it will pass a Republican-led Senate. Even if proponents of the bill are able to garner one more Republican supporter, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) may not bring it up for a vote. However, many expect a vote today or early next week.
The bill is focus of heavy lobbying on both sides. Supporters of gay marriage include Barbara Pierce Bush (daughter of President George W. Bush) and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor travelled to Albany Thursday to discuss the bill with Republican Senators.
"I still believe if [the senators] do vote their hearts and principles, New York State will become the next state to adopt marriage equality," Bloomberg told reporters.
Opponents include Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the leader of the Catholic church in New York, who compared the effort to redefine marriage in New York to China or North Korea.
"In those countries, government presumes daily to 'redefine' rights, relationships, values, and natural law There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of 'family' and 'marriage' means," Dolan said. "But, please, not here! Our country's founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values – life, home, family, marriage, children, faith – that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence."
The bill passed the State Assembly by a vote of 80 to 63. All but a few Republicans voted against the measure. Some of these Democrats represent districts with large religious blocs of voters who tend to vote Democratic in state politics, such as conservative Jews, Catholics, or African-American Protestants.
Dov Hikind, one of the 15 Democrats opposed to the bill, was not shy about invoking God into the debate. The Brooklyn legislator held up a copy of the Hebrew scriptures.
"You want to tell God he doesn't know what he's talking about?" Hikind said.