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December 11, 2008


It's no secret that the New York Senate has been the road block for gay marriage legislation. A bill passed by the State Assembly and endorsed by Governor Paterson was buried in committee by the republican controlled senate - effectively killing the measure.

With the November 4th election of a majority of democrats to the senate, it looked like that legislation would finally be moved forward.

Unfortunately, Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. led a rebellion of three Democratic Senators who refused to support their own leadership unless their conditions were met. Diaz's "conditions" included, among other things, that no vote could be brought to the floor that would advance marriage equality.

With the support of these three senators, democrats would once again regain control, by a 32-30 majority, after decades of republican domination. Without their support, it would be very difficult for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith to effectively advance any democratic initiatives.

Well, with politics being what it is and gay issues always being considered expendable for political expediency, it looked like Smith was going to acquiesce to these three renegades and remove the gay marriage bill from consideration. Even in spite of the substantial amount of money donated to the democrats by gays and gay allies during the pre-election campaigns.

It now seems that Senator Smith has, with a lot of coaxing from fellow democrats, once again found his conscience. According to a story at Newsday.com:

Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith said Wednesday any deal with three dissidents to secure his party's hold on the chamber majority is officially off.

Smith said he has the support of the Democratic Caucus and has ceased negotiations with the three, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Sen.-elect Pedro Espada Jr., both of the Bronx, and Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn. Their support would give the party a 32-30 majority beginning Jan. 1 after decades of Republican control.

"We're prepared to wait if we have to to come into the majority," Smith said. He was flanked by senators Neil Breslin of Albany and Liz Krueger of Manhattan when he made the announcement.

Smith said the three renegades were motivated by "personal interests." He also said he wouldn't subject civil rights issues to negotiation, referring to a proposal backed by many Democrats to legalize gay marriage.

The ball is now in the dissident's court. They can either follow through on their threat and side with the republicans, which would, in most expert's opinions, very likely result in political suicide or they can sit down with Smith and renegotiate their positions.

In either case, it's really great to see a politician stand up to intimidation and do the right thing. Thanks to Smith and the other democrats, legal gay marriage in New York State once again has a very real chance of happening.

I've always loved New York and I'll love it even more if this goes through. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.