Friday, April 17, 2009

Lower Hudson Valley legislators support gay marriage by a lopsided margin | | The Journal News

Lower Hudson Valley legislators support gay marriage by a lopsided margin | | The Journal News

By Keith Eddings • April 17, 2009

Gov. David Paterson's announcement yesterday that he will introduce a gay marriage bill and push for it forcefully in the Legislature provided a huge psychological boost for the measure across the state, but little changed on the issue among legislators who represent the Lower Hudson Valley, where most already support the proposal.

Only one state legislator from Westchester, Putnam or Rockland - Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, an Ossining Democrat - said she is rethinking her position as evidence emerges that the civil unions gay couples have been offered in other states as a substitute for marriage have not provided the equality they promised.

Galef voted against a gay marriage bill two years ago, when the Assembly passed it, 85-61.

"I felt with civil unions that there would be equality in programs and services for people, but I'm not sure that's happening," Galef said yesterday, citing a recent report by a New Jersey commission that civil unions in that state have created a second-class status for same-sex couples. She added that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut has made it "much more complicated for us not to have that."

Galef's shift would leave just two of the 11 Assembly members who represent the region - Republicans Greg Ball of Patterson and Nancy Calhoun of Blooming Grove in Orange County - opposed to gay marriage.

That point won't matter much in Albany because the real battle over gay marriage this year will be fought in the state Senate, where the Republican leadership that was deposed by the chamber's new Democratic majority in January refused to allow the issue to go to the floor for a vote. Even with Democrats now in charge of the Senate, gay marriage may not have the votes to pass because at least four Democrats have said they would vote no.

Yesterday, state Sens. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers, Suzi Oppenheimer of Mamaroneck and Jeff Klein of the Bronx, all Democrats, reiterated their support.

An aide to state Sen. Thomas Morahan, a Republican from New City, said he supports civil unions - an issue that has never reached a vote in either side of the legislature - but would not comment on Paterson's marriage bill because he said Morahan has not seen it. Aides to state Sens. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, and Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, said the senators were not available.

Local legislators who could be reached and support gay marriage used language similar to the language Patterson used yesterday, when he likened the push by gays and lesbians for the right to marry to the civil rights struggles of blacks, women and the disabled.

"I've always believed that racism is a problem for the white community and anti-Semitism is a problem for the gentile community," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, who was the first Assembly member to speak for gay marriage when a bill first reached the floor two years ago. "Gay marriage is a problem that needs to be addressed by the straight community.

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