New York State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said today in a press conference that he "does not have enough votes" to pass New York's gay-marriage bill into law. Responding to NY1 News reporter Josh Robin, Smith said "I do not have 32 votes [the majority needed to pass the bill in the Senate]." Earlier this week State Sen. Tom Duane (D-Chelsea), publicly stated he had more than the 32-vote majority needed to ensure the bill's passage. According to Smith, however, there are currently 20 votes for the gay-marriage bill, 28 against, and 10 undecided.
Among the bill's most vocal opponents are Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. (D-South Bronx), and Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria). Both are on record as being vehemently against the passage of a gay-marriage law in New York, with Diaz going so far as to organize a public protest against gay marriage. This protest, it should be noted, was held a mere three blocks from Broadway Impact's pro-gay-marriage rally on Sixth Avenue in Midtown. Among the undecided Senators is Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who has refused to state a position on the issue, despite numerous calls from his constituency to do so. It's going to be the undecided Senators who will determine the outcome of this bill.
These "undecided" Senators, perhaps fearful of the political backlash of supporting gay marriage, believe it is better to take no voting position on this. Does bigotry speak so much louder than understanding, that it can silence those we send to Albany to vote on issues like gay marriage? Half-measures like "civil unions" are attempts at appeasement which accomplish nothing. New Jersey tried "civil unions" and discovered that this legal construction isn't marriage, nor are other states and countries likely to recognize "civil unions" as anything more than a local law not binding on them.
Marriage equality is important for the fundamental Constitutional principles it represents, the legal protections it affords gay and lesbian couples, and for the permanency it grants to them. The LGBT community should not settle for anything short of this. Just as interracial marriages were once illegal in many states, so too must the criminalization of gay relationships end, as well. The Senate has fifteen more days until their session ends in Albany. Let them hear your voice, particularly so the "undecideds" can find theirs.