No Senate vote set yet on gay marriage

As of a half hour ago, there’s no word on whether Senate Republicans will call a vote on gay marriage.

The AP just reported this:

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two Republican state senators in New York say no decision was made on the fate of gay marriage after a three-hour meeting behind closed doors Monday.

The senators, speaking on condition of anonymity, say gay marriage is tied up in negotiations with other issues including rent control in New York City and a statewide property tax cap.

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Joe Spector of our Albany bureau has an interesting story today about Sen. Steve Saland, a respected Poughkeepsie Republican who could be the 32nd vote needed in the Senate for gay marriage to be passed.

Saland is apparently respected by both sides of the aisle for being a thoughtful veteran of the Senate. His office has been getting 60 or 70 calls an hour from people on all sides of the issue.

Most NYers oppose Islamic center — but defend the right to build it

New Yorkers have very mixed impulses about the proposed Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero.

According to a new poll from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., New Yorkers agreed — by a 54% to 40% margin — with this statement: “that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero…”

At the same time, though, respondents agreed — by a 53% to 39% margin — with this statement: “that because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero.”

In the end, poll respondents prefer that the developers CHOOSE to move the site, which makes sense if you consider the above results.

By a large 71% to 21% percent majority, voters agree “that because of the opposition of Ground Zero relatives, the Muslim group should voluntarily build the mosque somewhere else. (italics mine)”

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explains: “The heated, sometimes angry, debate over the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has New York State voters twisted in knots, with some of them taking contradictory positions depending on how the question is asked.”

He also says: “Overwhelmingly, across all party and regional lines, New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location.”

According to the poll, New Yorkers  (meaning across the state) agree that Islam is a peaceful religion, by a 54-21 margin (with 24% undecided).

The “peaceful” numbers vary across the state: 62-21 in NYC; 51-25 in the Burbs; and 49-28 upstate.

Finally, respondents overwhelmingly said — 71  to 22 percent — that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo should investigate the financing of the proposed Islamic center.

Two Christian groups oppose no-fault divorce

I was kind of stunned the other day to learn that New York is the only state without a no-fault divorce law.

I guess I would have expected a few states in more traditional parts of the country to be sticklers when it comes to “preserving” marriage.

Two days ago, the NY state Senate voted 32-29 to allow “no-fault” divorce after a marriage has “irretrievably” broken down for at least six months. The Assembly is expected to go along.

Right now, one spouse must allege abandonment, adultery or one of a few other reasons in order to seek a divorce.

The only religious group that I have heard react to the Senate passage is the NYS Catholic Conference, which is predictably opposed to any changes that would make divorce more common.

Executive Director Richard Barnes released this statement:

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The Bishops of New York State are disappointed with the Senate action today. Increasingly, society has come to view marriage as disposable and temporary. However, empirical evidence shows that children of divorce tend to suffer many negative consequences throughout their lives, from lower educational achievement rates to higher rates of substance abuse, criminal behavior and imprisonment.

Clearly, not every marriage can be permanent. But when serious reasons exist, such as abuse, adultery or abandonment, the law provides for quick divorces. In cases where no such grounds are present, so-called “no fault” cases, a couple may divorce following a one-year legal separation. The state has a legitimate interest in such a waiting period, where reconciliation is still a feasible possibility, because of the important place of marriage in society, particularly as it relates to the stable rearing of children.

New York State has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. While we see that as a cause for state pride, some sadly may see it as a problem to be corrected. We urge the state Assembly to reject this proposal and, failing that, we call on Gov. Paterson to veto it.

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New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical lobbying group in Albany, has not released a statement on the Senate vote (that I have been able to find).

But the group does have a position on no-fault divorce, which is basically that we’re better off without it. Their position includes this statement about divorce:

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Any divorce, regardless if it occurred under fault or no-fault laws, is one of life’s most painful experiences. It signifies the failure of a dream—a dream of intimacy, of family, of security, of meaning. The consequences of divorce can therefore be severe, not only economically, but particularly physically, emotionally and psychologically.

It would seem logical, therefore, that with the massive increases in divorce rates, the rate of children involved in divorce, and the social consequences of the divorce epidemic, that the Legislature would be looking for ways to strengthen marriages not make divorces easier to obtain.

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I have not been able to find any statements in favor of no-fault divorce from religious groups.

I checked the website of Interfaith IMPACT of New York, a coalition of leaders from liberal religious traditions, but did not come across any mention of divorce.

Gay marriage defeated in NYS Senate, 38-24

NOTE: This post is updated as it goes….

You can watch the NYS Senate debate gay marriage right HERE.

The quality of the video/audio is quite good.

Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Mount Vernon is speaking now — 1:45 or so. She just said that her oldest brother was gay and that she never said so in public before.

She described her brother moving to France to seek acceptance.

Her father was a minister. Her sister is a minister. She said her sister will not approve of the vote she will cast — in favor of gay marriage.

1:55 update: Sen. Craig Johnson of Nassau County, another supporter of gay marriage, just described “civil unions” as a “separate but equal” alternative for gays and lesbians.

He said that gay marriage is not an attack on religious liberty. “This is about civil marriage,” he said.

2 p.m. update: Sen. Bill Perkins of Harlem calls the gay-marriage vote “historic.”

He said: “Great ready: Marriage equality is here. It is inevitable.”

He also said: “I can see Dr. Martin Luther King smiling down on us today.”

2:03 update: Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer from Westchester is up. You know where she stands.

She said: “This is most assuredly a civil issue. This is not a religious issue.”

She said she does not understand how gay marriage would diminish traditional marriage.

“Isn’t this what we want in our communities, people who have commitments to one another?”

I certainly caught a string of fervent supporters of GM.

2:25 update. Had a phone call. What did I miss?

Sen. Thomas Duane of Manhattan is speaking. He is openly gay. He’s talking about how many senators have met his partner.

He’s talking about Nelson Mendela and Harriet Tubman and weeping. And Harvey Milk.

He’s having trouble putting his thoughts together.

He’s talking about the importance of being out. “Not doing it means it’s something you don’t want to be. I don’t think anyone here would want to perpetuate that.”

2:40 update. Duane was the last speaker. The debate is closed.

They are about to begin a roll call.

2:45: The first vote is by Sen. Eric Adams: “This is about love.” He votes yes.

There has just been a string of no votes, I think. It’s hard to hear. Several voters have not commented.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. says that senators cannot leave their Bibles outside. He voted no.

Another string of NOs.

And more NOs. Gay marriage appears to be in trouble.

3 p.m.: The vote is over. Gay marriage is defeated, 38-24

Opponents of gay marriage speaking out as votes may near

The possibility of a gay-marriage vote today in Albany has opponents speaking out.

New York State Catholic Conference Executive Director Richard E. Barnes just released this statement:

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In the last several years, voters in 31 states have taken up the issue of changing the timeless definition of marriage and 31 times they have voted to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Just last month in Maine, advocates for reinventing marriage outspent their opponents by two to one and still could not sway voters in that socially liberal state, who easily overturned a law passed by the Maine legislature, despite pre-vote polling predicting a dead heat.

The Maine example follows a pattern wherever a homosexual “marriage” initiative goes before voters – opinion polls routinely overstate public support for this radical social experiment. There is no reason to believe the same is not true in New York. It would be wise for our Senators to keep in mind the lessons of Maine, California and all of the others states that have stood up in favor of marriage: The citizenry does not want their state legislature redefining marriage.

We urge the New York State Senate to stand firm in defense of marriage. The people expect nothing less.

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New  Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical lobbying group in Albany, sent out an email urging members to “Flood legislative inboxes with e-mail,” call elected officials or even come to Albany to lobby in person.

The email also urges followers to pray and fast: “New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms believes in the power of prayer, and while our legislative opponents ridicule this idea, we know that there is a God who hears and answers the prayers of His people. The God of the Bible ordained marriage to be an institution between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4-5). Any attempt to redefine it is ultimately rebellion against the Creator.”

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In New Jersey, Democrats are pusing a vote on gay marriage before Republican Chris Christie replaces Jon Corzine as governor. Christie says he would veto a gay-marriage bill.

Leaders of a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, N.J., who normally keep to themselves,  have come out to oppose a possible gay-marriage law.

Religious leaders in support of gay marriage: The list

The Empire State Pride Agenda has released a list of more than 700 clergy and lay leaders who support gay marriage in New York.

They divided the list by region: Buffalo, Albany, Central NY, Hudson Valley and the Catskills, Long Island, NYC and Rochester/Finger Lakes.

Since they went through the trouble, here are the signees from the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, who seem to include a lot of folks from around here (the statement they signed says “We, the undersigned, urge the New York State Legislature to protect families in New York State by extending marriage to same-sex couples”):

Hudson Valley & Catskills

The Rev. Patricia Ackerman, Episcopal, Nyack
The Rev. Paul Alcorn, Bedford Presbyterian Church, Bedford
Seminarian Christina Jean Alexis, West Center Congregational Church, Bronxville
Helen F. Andrew, Memorial United Methodist Church, Sleepy Hollow
Leonard Andrew, Memorial United Methodist Church, Sleepy Hollow
Cantor Dana Anesi, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, Chappaqua
Jean-Marie Angelo, Grace Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon
The Rev. Janet L. Avery, Metropolitan Community Church of the Hudson Valley
The Rev. Raymond J. Bagnuolo, Palisades Presbyterian Church, White Plains
The Rev. Edwin D. Baker, Retired, Episcopal, Croton Falls
The Rev. John Barrett, United Church of Christ, Bronxville
Rev. Adam G. Bartholomew, Episcopal, Mount Vernon
Sharon A. Bellamy, Presbyterian, Amsterdam
Hirham Benmira, Presbyterian, Andes
John Bevacqua, Fourth Unitarian Society of Westchester, Mohegan Lake
Margaret E. Borgstede, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
Sandra Borowsky, Orangetown Jewish Center, New City
The Rev. Melissa Boyer Holt, United Methodist Church, Buchanan
Tracy Breneman-Pennas, Unitarian Universalist, Montrose
The Rev. David M. Bryce, First Unitarian Society of Westchester, Hastings-On-Hudson
Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl, Central Synagogue, Scarsdale
Rev. Karen Burger, United Methodist Church, Carmel
Susan M. Cabrera, King of Kings Lutheran Church, Montgomery
Archbishop Michael Champion, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Buchanan
Dennis Chorpenning, Bronxville Methodist
Mark Clark, St. Francis Xavier Gay & Lesbian Ministry, Nyack
Frances Colombo, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
Rev. Gary D. Comstock, United Church of Christ, Woodstock
The Rev. Dale Cranston, Episcopal, Suffern
Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, Chappaqua
Jason M. Davis, UU Northern Westchester, Chappaqua
The Rev. Susan G. De George, South Presbyterian Church of Dobbs Ferry
Rev. Peter Dennebaum, First Congregational Church, Chappaqua
Christopher J. DiGiorgio, St. John’s Episcopal Church of New Rochelle
Brother James Dowd, Episcopal, West Park
The Rev. Roderic Frohman, Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester
The Rev. Joseph H. Gilmore, South Presbyterian Church of Dobbs Ferry
Rabbi Andrew Gordon, Scarsdale Synagogue-Temples Tremont and Emanu-El
Kathy Green, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
The Rev. Harry C. Green, First Unitarian Society of Rockland County, Pomona
The Rev. Thomas Gregg, Pastor, West Charlton United Presbyterian Church, Amsterdam
The Rev. David Gregory, United Church of Christ, Middletown
George Hermann, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Larchmont
Rose Ann Hermann, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Larchmont
Rev. Anne Herscher, Methodist, Montgomery
The Rev. Rayner W. Hesse, Jr., St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
The Rev. Jean A. F. Holmes, Presbytery of Hudson River, New City
The Rev. Margaret E. Howland, Presbyterian, Yonkers
Rev. Thomas Hughart, Presbyterian, Bedford
Rabbi Jennifer Jaech, Temple Israel of Northen Westchester, Croton-On-Hudson
Chip James, Cherokee, Monroe
Debora J. Jordan, Fourth Unitarian Society of Westchester, Mohegan Lake
David J. Juhren, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
Paul L. Kerlee, Episcopal, Elmsford
Cantor Hayley Kobilinsky, Congregation B’nai Yisrael, Armonk
Leonora A. Kovacs, Church of The Messiah Rhinebeck
Rabbi Douglas Krantz, Congregation B’nai Yisrael, Armonk
Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger, Poughkeepsie
Evelyn Lombardi, Episcopal, West Nyack
Linda Lott, Saint John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill, Orangetown Jewish Center, Orangeburg
The Rev. Richard R. McKeon, Zion Episcopal Church, Dobbs Ferry
Marsha Melnick, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Warwick
Carol Mencher, Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains
Susan E. Meyer, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Warwick
Rabbi Shira Milgrom, Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains
The Rev. Deb Morra, CSW, Community Unitarian Church at White Plains
The Rev. Daniel M. Morse, First Presbyterian, Middletown
Rabbi Benjamin Newman, Congregation M’vakshe Derekh, Scarsdale
Rev. Thomas Nicoll, St. John’s Church, Larchmont
Rev. James O’Hanlon, Lutheran, Mount Vernon
Rev. Katherine Herron Piazza, St. John’s Church, Larchmont
President Barbara Pollard, Reform Jewish Voice, Scarsdale
The Rev. Cheryl Renn, One Spirit Interfaith, Yonkers
The Rev. William Blake Rider, Christ Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie
Guy Robinson, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
Elizabeth B. Saenger, Jewish (Reform), Mamaroneck
Michael R. Sabatino, Jr., Zion Episcopal Church, Yonkers
Rev. Dawn Sangrey, Fourth Unitarian Society of Westchester
Rabbi David A. Schuck, Pelham Jewish Center
Barbara G. Selbst, Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains
The Rev. Angela M. Skinner, Presbyterian, Yorktown Heights
Rabbi Abigail N. Sosland, Solomon Schechter High School of Westchester
Father James F. Stewart, Benedictine Gronge, Harrison
The Rev. Mary Ellen Summerville, Asbury United Methodist Church, Tuckahoe
The Rev. William Taber, Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester
The Rev. Molly Blythe Teichert, The Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco
Petra Thombs, Community Unitarian Universalist Church at White Plains
The Rev. Rachel Thompson, Bedford Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester, Mount Kisco
Denice Tomlinson, Community Unitarian Universalist Church at White Plains
Susan Torres-Bender, Unitarian Universalist, Monroe
Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Temple Israel Center, White Plains
The Rev. Martha E. Vink, New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Delhi
Rev. Terri Vitale, Interfaith, Mt. Vernon
Robert Voorheis, Zion Episcopal Church, Yonkers
The Rev. Kenneth L. Walsh, Reformed Church in America, Kingston
The Rev. Fr. John B. Warfel, Grace Episcopal Church, Middletown
Rabbi Tom Weiner, Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains
David Weiser, St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Rochelle
Rev. Norman D. White, Pastor, Lutheran, White Plains

Gay marriage debate buzzing behind the scenes

Will a gay marriage vote actually take place in the topsy-turvy NYS Senate?

Gov. Paterson now says he’ll force senators to vote before they break for summer. He said yesterday that he’s calling the Senate into a special session after the nuttiness of recent weeks.

In a related story, Ossining’s Maggie Gallagher (that’s her), a leading foe of gay marriage in NYS, is being accused of running a front organization for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage, which is spending big money on advertising and lobbying to defeat gay marriage in the NYS Senate. The group is also threatening to mount primaries against GOP senators who vote for gay marriage.

But as my colleague Keith Eddings reports, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating complaints that Gallagher’s group is a “front” for the Mormon church, which of course helped organize support for California’s Proposition 8. The investigation has to do with whether the church failed to report millions of dollars in “nonmonetary contributions” to Gallagher’s group.

Gallagher (who is Catholic) says her group is independent of any religious denomination: “It’s not true. I founded NOM. I’d be happy to work with Mormons, but NOM was not started at the suggestion of Salt Lake.”

Eddings notes that Kim Farah, an oft-quoted spokeswoman for the LDS, did not respond to a question about whether the Mormon church has been working to stop gay marriage in New York and elsewhere.

Evangelical group trying to rally foes of same-sex marriage in NYS

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a conservative, evangelical lobbying group in Albany, has launched a “40 Days for Marriage” campaign to galvanize opposition to same-sex marriage in the Empire State.

The group explains:

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Forty days marks the time between the New York State Assembly’s passage of same-sex marriage legislation on May 12, 2009, and the end of the legislative session on June 22, 2009. The reference to forty days however, is much more than just a legislative countdown. Rev. Tom Stiles, Director of Church Relations with the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, notes that there is strong biblical imagery connected to the number forty. Stiles points to the fact that:

  • In the Book of Numbers the twelve Hebrew spies spent forty days scouting the land of Canaan (Num. 13:25; 14:34).
  • Moses interceded for the people of Israel for forty days and nights (Deut. 9:25; 10:10).
  • Goliath stood before the Israelites cursing their God for forty days, before young David defeated him with God’s help, a sling and a stone (1 Sam. 17:16).
  • Elijah was refreshed by an angel, and went on the strengthen of that encounter for forty days (1 Kings 19:18).
  • It was in only forty days that Nineveh was to be destroyed for her sin (Jonah 3:4), but Jonah’s preaching was used by God to bring revival to the people of Nineveh and they were spared from judgment.

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The group is asking people to pray for their state senator (who will likely vote on the matter soon), have friends contact the Senate, attend a Stand 4 Marriage Rally on Tuesday, June 9 at 10:30 a.m. outside the Capitol, and to contribute $40 for the cause.

The NYT wrote the other day about the lack of an organized opposition in Albany to same-sex marriage. The article noted that New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms doesn’t have the resources to wage a major campaign.

But they appear to be doing what they can.

NYS court to look at recognition of same-same marriages from elsewhere

A big story down the road?

New York state’s highest court said this week it will hear two appeals in cases trying to stop public officials from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Officials in NYS cannot perform same-sex marriages, but the two cases involve Westchester County Exec Andrew Spano and the NYS Department of Civil Service recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere.

I should note that the Iowa Supreme Court today struck down a law banning same-sex marriage. So Iowa is on the way to joining Connecticut and Massachusetts as the only states where gay marriage is legal.