Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Argentina Town Holds First Same-Sex Marriage In Latin America - Lez Get Real

Argentina Town Holds First Same-Sex Marriage In Latin America - Lez Get Real

Today was a day long desired for Alex Freyre and José María di Bello, for today was their wedding day. The two married today in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, after a months long battle for the right to marry that is still being played out. The two moved to Ushuaia in order to get married. They had been blocked from marrying after a judge stayed the decision that allowed them to marry. The decision stated that the Civil Code which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman unconstitutional.

Governor Fabiana Ríos held that the original decision to grant the couple marriage rights was to be upheld and overrode the registrar who initially refused to grant them the marriage license. The couple, who are both HIV positive, had initially wanted to marry on 1 December, which is World AIDS Day.

Currently, civil unions are available in some cities in Argentina, but do not grant full equality. Currently, civil unions are available in a few other places such as Uruguay. Mexico City recently adopted full marriage equality.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A transitional year for same-sex marriage -- latimes.com

A transitional year for same-sex marriage -- latimes.com

By Jonathan Rauch

December 27, 2009

For the gay marriage debate, 2009 was transitional instead of transformative, but the year was historic nonetheless. To mangle Churchill, it was not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but it was at least the beginning of the middle.

This is an issue on which the fundamentals of public opinion change glacially. Support for same-sex marriage is rising, but only by about a percentage point or so a year. Essentially, a third of the public supports gay marriage, another third or so supports civil unions instead, and the remaining third opposes any kind of legal status for same-sex couples.

Although public-opinion fundamentals didn't change in 2009; the politics of gay marriage did. Here are the ways the year marked a shift to what a storyteller might call the "long middle."

The preemptive strikes on both sides have failed. Early on, conservatives feared that courts would impose same-sex marriage nationally by fiat. They responded with an attempt to ban gay marriage nationally by constitutional amendment. But the federal courts kept their distance, and the amendment was rebuffed.

As the year ends, it is clear that neither side can knock the other off the field. Gay marriage is firmly established in five states (with the District of Columbia's likely to follow suit), but it is banned, often by constitutional amendment, in most of the others. Unless the Supreme Court shocks the country and itself by declaring gay marriage a constitutional right, the issue will take years, perhaps decades, to resolve. All-or-nothing activists will be disappointed, but the country will get the time it needs to make up its mind.

Legislators are taking over from judges. For years, the only way same-sex marriage seemed possible was by court order. But with state venues for pro-gay-marriage lawsuits having just about dried up, the fight has moved from the lower courts to the political branches, much as the civil rights struggle did in the 1960s. Now, as then, legislative victories afford the movement more momentum and popular legitimacy than judicial ones ever could.

Opponents were fond of arguing that the gay-marriage movement was not just wrongheaded but antidemocratic. But in 2009, gay marriage was passed by the legislatures and signed into law in Maine and New Hampshire, and it was enacted by a veto-overriding majority in Vermont. Nothing undemocratic about that.

Same-sex marriage has been mainstreamed. In its first decade or so on the national stage, gay marriage was a fringe idea, the property of the political far left. No longer. Gay marriage may still be losing at the ballot box, but in Maine in 2009, as in California in 2008, the margins have grown tight. With its establishment last spring in Iowa, same-sex marriage has penetrated the heartland, by court order but with little backlash. Many Democrats have come to see support for gay unions as a political plus. Increasingly, it is the opponents who are playing cultural defense, insisting that they are the ones who are being marginalized and stigmatized.

There's a backlash against the backlash. The most important trend of 2009 began Nov. 4, 2008, when California voters passed Proposition 8, revoking gay marriage in their state. Until then, the preponderance of passion lay with opponents. After Prop. 8, however, many heterosexuals embraced gay marriage, taking ownership of an issue that they have come to view as the next great civil rights battle.

For same-sex marriage advocates, the emergence of a dedicated core of straight supporters is a sea change. There is now comparable energy and commitment on both sides.

It was just such passion, indeed, that led two of the country's most distinguished lawyers -- Theodore Olson, a Republican, and David Boies, a Democrat -- to join hands across party lines in 2009 and file a lawsuit asking the federal courts to overturn California's Proposition 8. The case is a long shot legally, but the fact that it has attracted such solidly mainstream legal talent is one more sign that the same-sex marriage issue has come of age.

Jonathan Rauch, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, is the author of "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America."

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Religious exemption for opponents of same sex marriage

Maggie must be pissed off and unfortunately ammunition for the opposition

In recent days courts in both England and the United States have ruled that individuals whose alleged strong religious convictions are opposed to legal recognition for same-sex partners are not thereby excused from complying with laws banning sexual orientation discrimination when it comes to doing their jobs. The cases arose in different contexts - government employment and private business - and invoked some different legal arguments, but in the end they boiled down to the same general principle: that a legislated policy of non-discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation trumps private rights of religious belief when it comes to the public sphere of business or government services.

In the U.K., the ruling came from the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), hearing an appeal from the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Lillian Ladele, who was employed by the London Borough of Islington as a registrar of births, marriages and deaths, beginning in 2002. Ladele v. London Borough of Islington, [2009] EWCA Civ. 1357 (Dec. 15, 2009). When the U.K. enacted a law authorizing civil partnerships for same-sex couples, the local authorities determined that the registrars of births, marriages and deaths who served as civil officiants for weddings would also serve that role for the civil partnerships. Ms. Ladele, asserting her religious objection to having anything to do with legally uniting same-sex couples, argued that she should be exempted due to her religious belief. After all, she argued, under European Human Rights Law and English law, freedom of religious belief is protected.

Ms. Ladele's stand induced tension with her fellow registrars, especially some of whom were gay and complained formally that her refusal to perform such ceremonies was discriminatory. The complaints led to formal proceedings, and a ruling by an Employment Tribunal that the employer was guilty of discrimination on grounds of religious belief by requiring her to perform such ceremonies. The local authorities appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which set aside that determination, deciding rather that allowing Ms. Ladele to refuse services to same-sex couples would violate the overriding policy of non-discrimination. The position of the Appeal Tribunal, affirmed by the Court of Appeal, was that employees are free to believe what they like, but as civil servants they are obligated to carry out their lawful functions without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against members of the public entitled to access their services.

The court endorsed the Appeal Tribunal's determination that the Employment Tribunal's finding of discrimination against Ms. Ladele was "quite unsustainable." As the Appeal Tribunal had stated, Ms. Ladele's complaint "is not that she was treated differently from others; rather it was that she was not treated differently when she ought to have been," i.e., a failure to accommodate her religious beliefs. The court found that local officials were not motivated by Ladele's religious beliefs in taking action against her, but rather by her refusal to perform "her assigned civil partnership duties." Thus, it was not a case of direct discrimination, but rather "indirect discrimination" in the sense that requiring her to perform her duties would burden her religious belief as it was expressed through her refusal to perform an assigned job duty.

The crux of the decision may be found in the following quotation from the Court of Appeals' opinion, at paragraph 46: "Islington wished to ensure that all their registrars were designated to conduct, and did conduct, civil partnerships as they regarded this as consistent with their strong commitment to fighting discrimination, both externally, for the benefit of the residents of the borough, and internally in the sense of relations with and between their employees. I find it very hard to see how this could be challenged, either as being Islington's actual aim, in the light of the evidence, or as being a legitimate aim, in the light of Islington's Dignity for All policy, current legislation and mainstream thinking."

In other words, in the U.K., and in the borough of Islington, the commitment to non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in government services is firmly established, what under U.S. law might be called a "compelling state interest," and would take priority over the individual religiously-based objections of public employees assigned on a routine basis to perform government services. This is confirmed in paragraph 55 of the opinion: "This appears to me to support the view that Ms. Ladele's proper and genuine desire to have her religious views relating to marriage respected should not be permitted to override Islington's concern to ensure that all of its registrars manifest equal respect for the homosexual community as for the heterosexual community." The court found this view consistent with the U.K.'s treaty obligations under the European Convention as well as national and local law.

The court concluded that "it is simply unlawful for Ms. Ladele to refuse to perform civil partnerships. It is also hard to resist the conclusion that this means that Islington had no alternative but to insist on her performing such duties together with their other registrars." The court did note that some other local jurisdictions had taken a different path, refraining from assigning objecting officials from performing such ceremonies in order to avoid confrontations, and stated that they were free to do so, but that Islington was totally within its rights to impose a uniform job assignment on all its registrars since no such accommodation was required by the law.

The American ruling came out of the Second Judicial District Court in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, where a mom-and-pop photography business was hauled before the state's Human Rights Commission for refusing to provide their photography services to a lesbian couple for their commitment ceremony. Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, CV-2008-06632 (Dec. 11, 2009). The Human Rights Commission found that New Mexico's prohibition of sexual orientation discrimination by "any public accommodation" had been violated by Elaine and Jon Huguenin, doing business as Elane Photography LLC, and that their business was not entitled to some sort of religious belief exemption from having to provide equal services without regard to sexual orientation of customers. Elane Photography filed suit against Vanessa Willock, who had filed the civil rights complaint, seeking an order setting aside the Commission's ruling.

The Huguenins argued strenuously on appeal that their business should not be considered a public accommodation, as they were just a mom-and-pop company operating out of their home, going to events when contracted to provide photography services, but the court found that they were advertising their services on the internet and in the yellow pages, and comfortably fit within the developing case law in New Mexico and around the country in meeting the requirements of a "public accommodation" as a business actively providing services to the public.

They also made the usual disengenuous argument that they were not discriminating based on sexual orientation. Indeed, they would be happy to photography a wedding between a gay man and a lesbian, for example, but they just held religious objections to any kind of formal ceremony linking two persons of the same sex in some sort of wedding. They said that, if anything, they were discriminating on the basis of marriage. As to this argument, wrote Judge Alan M. Malott, "The Court disagrees and finds that Plaintiff's policy discriminates, on its face, against gays and lesbians. It goes without saying that they are the only members of the public who are involved in same-sex marriages or commitment ceremonies. Just as with professional creativity, a sincerely held belief does not justify discrimination based upon sexual orientation under the NMHRA."

As to the religious discrimination claim, the plaintiffs argued that the state should not compel them to participate in a ceremony to which they held religious objections, but Judge Malott rejected the idea that requiring them to provide their professional photography services at such an event amounted to that. "This case is not an example of religious persecution," he wrote. "Plaintiff and its owner-operator is not being forced to participate in any ceremony or ritual; the only requirement is that she photograph the event. This is no different from the caterer or florist attending the ceremony in order to provide its commercial service; they attend it, not participate in it."

Plaintiffs complained that the NM Human Rights Act was not "neutral" with respect to religion because it exempted religious institutions from having to comply with the sexual orientation non-discrimination provision, but provided no such exemption for religious individuals. Consequently, they challenged the constitutionality of the act, arguing that New Mexico had no compelling interest sufficient to justify such an abridgement of religious freedom. Malott rejected this argument, finding that the act was perfectly neutral with respect to religion, and was not intended to discriminate on grounds of religion. But even if a compelling interest were needed to justify it, he found one: the state's desire to stamp out discrimination by businesses offering goods and services to the public.

Of course, the Alliance Defense Fund is representing Elane Photography, so this ruling will be appealed to the state appellate courts, and, one suspects that if the state appellate courts affirm Judge Malott, ADF will file a cert. petition to the US Supreme Court.

An interesting side point: in both cases, the discriminator claimed that a religious objection to same-sex marriage animated their refusal to provide a service, but ironically in neither case is same-sex marriage actually involved. Neither the U.K. nor New Mexico provides legally for same-sex marriages. The U.K. provides a "separate but equal" civil partnership status, and New Mexico provides NOTHING to private citizens. Vanessa Willock and her partner wanted to get professionally-done photographs of their private commitment ceremony, an event having no legal significance in New Mexico. So it strikes this observer that in both cases the claim of religious persecution of those opposed to same-sex marriage is being a bit misdirected.

On the other hand, religiously-inspired bigotry has traditionally been protected under American law and certainly under traditional British law -- where there is an established state church -- so the strong declarations by both courts that anti-discrimination policy takes priority over private religious objections by individuals and businesses shows how a sea change in law has occurred over recent decades. I'm not sure one would have expected rulings such as these a generation ago.... and remember that in recent memory the US Supreme Court has upheld the right of the Boy Scouts and the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston to maintain anti-gay policies based on personal beliefs, for many religiously-inspired, opposed to homosexuality.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Marriage Equality Comes To Mexico City - Lez Get Real

Marriage Equality Comes To Mexico City - Lez Get Real

Marriage Equality has arrived in Mexico City. By 39-20 with 5 abstentions, Mexico City became the first Latin American city or nation to legalize marriage between two people of the same sex. Currently, civil unions are permissible in the Mexican state of Coahuila, just south of Texas. Uruguay is the only full nation in Latin America to allow civil unions. Now that it has been passed, it is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. The next step according to Mexico City spokesperson Oscar Oliver is to take up legislation allowing gays and lesbians to adopt.

The move was widely denounced by the Roman Catholic Church and other conservative groups; however, the Leftist controlled legislature passed the legislation handily. The Democratic Revolutionary Party had already passed abortion rights and civil unions within the city. Marriage will no longer be considered a union of a man and a woman in the law codes, but rather “the free uniting of two people”. Lawmaker David Razu proposed the changes in order to grant the same rights to same-sex couples with regards to social security and other social services that are already held by heterosexuals.

The movement of many Catholic nations upon the issue of marriage equality has signaled the erosion of the Vatican’s power over many predominantly Catholic nations. Some twenty nations perform civil unions, and seven allow for full marriage equality. Currently, six American states offer same-sex marriage and another nine have civil unions or domestic partnerships

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poll: U.S. evenly divided on same-sex marriage

moving in the right direction

Poll: U.S. evenly divided on same-sex marriage

On an issue where survey results once registered lopsided disapproval, the American public is now almost evenly divided on same sex marriage -- although approval remains below 50 percent -- according to a new Angus Reid Poll.

The survey found that 43 percent favor same-sex marriage while 46 percent remain opposed.

Support for giving full legal rights to same-sex couples -- the "anything but marriage" status approved by Washington voters when they voted for Referendum 71 in November -- gets greater support.

A total of 53 percent give thumbs-up to "the same rights as married couples" while 37 percent are opposed: 10 percent remain undecided.

The independent poll of 1,001 American adults was taken December 8 and 9, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

The backing for same-sex marriage, according to the Reid poll, is centered among those living with a "significant other" (65 percent), single people who have never married (56 percent) and those who are widowed (51 percent).

Those who are divorced (38 percent), married (34 percent) or separated (34 percent) are less supportive.

Approval for anything-but-marriage rises to 76 percent with the widowed and 71 percent among those living with a "significant other," and is between 45 and 50 percent among those married, separated and divorced.

The Reid poll also asked about factors influencing attitudes, with the question: "Do you have any close friends or relatives who are openly gay or lesbian?" The number answering "Yes" totaled 53 percent, those replying "No" were 46 percent, with 2 percent refusing to answer.

The survey asked "Do you think being homosexual is . . .", with 47 percent answering "Something people choose to be," to 34 percent who agreed to "Something people are born with." Nearly 20 percent were not sure.

The Washington Poll, directed by a UW political scientist, surveyed attitudes in this state last year.

It found that 36.7 percent of those surveyed support same-sex marriage with 29.3 percent in favor full legal benefits.

A total of 21.4 percent opposed any legal rights for same-sex couples, while 12.6 percent said they would endorse "some" rights.

Fenty to sign same-sex marriage bill at church in NW D.C. - washingtonpost.com

Fenty to sign same-sex marriage bill at church in NW D.C. - washingtonpost.com

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 2009; B03

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty will sign legislation Friday to legalize same-sex marriage in the District at a bill-signing ceremony so historic that his staff scrambled to find the perfect location Thursday.

Would it be All Souls Unitarian Church, a Northwest house of worship known for its diversity, liberalism and welcoming of same-sex couples? Would it be Covenant Baptist Church, a predominantly black church in Southwest where husband-and-wife team of Dennis and Christine Wiley serve as co-pastors and support gay marriage? Or would it be a secular site?

Late in the day, Katie Loughary, executive director at All Souls, said it appeared that Covenant was winning. "We're disappointed, yes," she said. "But we're excited that it's happening."

But the letdown was turned around when the Rev. Robert Hardies, All Souls' senior pastor, said that he had been contacted by the mayor's office and told that his church would be the spot.

"We're honored to be able to host this historic bill-signing," he said. "We believe this is a historic step forward for justice and human rights in our nation's capital."

All Souls is ideal, said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "It's great that he's chosen one of the key churches in this struggle, rather, in this victory, in the most diverse ward in the city," said Graham, one of two openly gay council members. "I'm so excited." The church is in Ward 1.

Hardies is co-chairman of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, a coalition of ministers founded this year to counter a group of clergy opposed to same-sex marriage. The Wileys were also leaders in the group, and Covenant would have been a symbolic choice -- it is in Ward 8, which is represented by council member Marion Barry, who dissented when the council voted 11 to 2 on Tuesday to legalize gay marriage.

Hardies said Fenty's decision to sign the bill in a church was telling. "This is symbolic of the strong religious support for this bill in D.C.," he said, noting that more than 100 clergy members had signed a declaration in support of same-sex marriage.

The measure was opposed by other religious leaders. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has strongly opposed the bill, saying that its charitable arm might have to cancel its contract with the city to deliver social services.

After Fenty (D) signs the bill, the legislation will be subject to congressional review under Home Rule.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Austria legalizes civil unions and formally bans adoption and IVF | ProudParenting.com

Austria legalizes civil unions and formally bans adoption and IVF | ProudParenting.com

Austria will begin recognizing civil unions on New Year's Day 2010, following the parliament's passage of a civil union bill on Dec. 10.

Unfortunately, the new bill also formally bans the adoption of children or artificial insemination for same-sex couples.

The bill will give same-sex couples many of the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts, including access to a pension if one partner dies and alimony in the event of a split.

"We are living in the 21st century and I'm very glad this step is being taken today," Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner said during parliamentary debate leading up to the vote.

And, unlike straight couples, gay couples will not be able to record their unions at the civil registry office but with another authority instead. The issue led to heated debate in recent weeks, with critics saying it clearly signals that a same-sex partnership isn't given the same weight as a marriage between a man and a woman.

Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, a Social Democrat who is the country's minister for women's affairs and fought against the registration differences, described the vote as "the first step in the right direction."

DC legalizes Marriage

National Briefs (12/16/09)

WASHINGTON - After suffering setbacks from California to New York, Maine to New Jersey, same-sex marriage supporters got a victory yesterday with the City Council's vote to legalize gay marriage in the District of Columbia.

Gay couples could begin tying the knot in the district as early as March. The only hurdles left to clear are the city's mayor, who has promised to sign the bill, and Congress, which has final say over laws in the nation's capital. The district's nonvoting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said she expects no opposition there.

Congress has 30 working days to act on the bill.

If the bill becomes law, the district would join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They will be able to wed in New Hampshire starting in January.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09350/1021207-84.stm#ixzz0Zr6Ct9Ku

Connecticut Law Tribune: A Year Of Questions

legal issues to consider

Connecticut Law Tribune: A Year Of Questions

After landmark ruling, same-sex couples seek counsel of lawyers


In October 2008, same-sex couples rejoiced at the opportunity when the Connecticut Supreme Court granted them the right to marry under state law.

But more than a year and plenty of wedding ceremonies later, lawyers with practices devoted to the gay community say legal questions from their clients are a lot more complex than just saying, ‘I do.’

From family law matters to financial ones, same-sex couples are encountering legal challenges different from those faced by opposite-sex partners. After all, this is still largely uncharted territory, with still only five states allowing gays and lesbians to officially tie the knot.

“It’s been a great year in terms of watching [marriage rights] progress,” said Irene Olszewski, a Manchester attorney with a large same-sex client base. However, “a lot of people mistakenly believe that if they’re married in Connecticut, they’re recognized by every [state] as being married.”

The first same-sex marriages were performed in Connecticut in mid-November of last year. Of the 2,500 same-sex couple who have wed since then, more than half lived out of state. And while lawyers are fielding questions about how the law impacts their clients’ daily lives, those lawyers are not experiencing any boom in their practices.

Dena Castricone, who co-chairs Murtha Cullina’s gay and lesbian practice group, said the most common question she hears is whether a same-sex marriage performed in Connecticut will be recognized in another state. “That’s critically important for couples seeking legal protections without having to uproot their families” and move to Connecticut, Castricone said.

Her answer all depends on the location. New York and Washington, D.C., for example, recognize same-sex marriages from other states and countries even though they do not perform them in those jurisdictions. But most other states do not recognize same-sex partners as being married spouses.

On The Rocks

Divorces are another area where the legal protections are crucial, and those questions, too, are coming from out of state.

“Dissolutions are a nightmare if you’re in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage because you can’t get a divorce,” Olszewski said. “I tell clients that if you’re not going to live in a same-sex friendly state, you might want to reconsider getting married.”

Connecticut seems to be a popular destination among same-sex couples whose relationships are on the rocks. But it’s not as simple as coming to the state and getting a quick divorce, Olszewski said, because one partner must be a Connecticut resident for at least a year before the couple can file for divorce here. That’s a law that applies regardless of the gender makeup of the marriage.

Victoria T. Ferrara, a Fairfield family law attorney, said once the one-year threshold is met, there are protections for divorcing couples. Before same-sex marriage was legalized in Connecticut, “it was much more problematic for couples to get out of relationships and it was very difficult to establish rights of property distribution,” Ferrara said. “[A partner] could be left with nothing after putting a lot of money and energy in the relationship and couples’ property” because Connecticut or their home state didn’t recognize the couple as married.

A legal wrinkle that could emerge involves the hypothetical couple that has been together for 10 or 15 years but has been legally married for a shorter period of time.

“It’s a challenge for people whether they can go back that long to claim assets,” Ferrara said. “Are they entitled to assets dating the length of the relationship or the length of the recognized marriage?”

Federal Benefits

One of the more common questions attorneys receive from same-sex couples involves federal benefits, such as Social Security, and whether spouses are eligible to receive their partner’s benefits upon death.

Right now, they can’t. But a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)—a Boston-based group that was instrumental in litigating Connecticut’s landmark Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Pubic Health —is looking to change that by alleging that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it refuses to recognize same-sex marriages.

Same-sex couples have been asking Day Pitney trusts and estates partner Brad Gallant what marriage would mean to them from a financial standpoint, and many are waiting for what they hope is a GLAD victory in court.

“When it happens that federal benefits and federal estate tax deductions become available, I’ve had clients say [that’s when] they will get married,” Gallant said. Along with Social Security benefits, same-sex couples also cannot yet take advantage of essentially tax-free property transfers between spouses.

“In terms of the emotional and psychological impact [of legalized same-sex marriage], it’s huge,” Gallant noted. “But until the state of [the Defense of Marriage Act] is resolved, the effect of same-sex marriage on estate and tax planning is relatively modest.”

Bennett Klein, the senior attorney at GLAD, said questions and concerns about federal benefits are the most common comments coming out of this state. “We’re not hearing about any [other] problems arising from Connecticut law,” Klein said.

Breaking the news that federal benefits don’t apply to same-sex couples “are the most disheartening phone calls I have to take,” said Olszewski, the Manchester lawyer.

And just to be on the safe side, she’s telling couples to continue to carry the same types of documents when they travel out of state as they did before they were legally married. These include a hospital visitation form so that a same-sex partner won’t be barred from a hospital room in a state that doesn’t recognize him or her as a family member.

But it’s not all about divorces and debates over federal benefits. The legalization of same-sex marriage in the state likely will lead to more adoption work, Olszewski said. She normally facilitates 20 to 25 adoptions per year for same-sex couples, and they usually involve a partner seeking joint custody along with the child’s biological mother.

All couples must live in Connecticut for a year before they can adopt a child here. Olszewski is working with three same-sex couples who have moved to Connecticut to benefit from its laws.

“They have moved to Connecticut because they intend to marry and adopt and they feel that it’s important to protect the child” with laws that legally recognize them as a family, Olszewski said. “It’s a nice time to be an attorney for same-sex couples. It’s nice that we don’t have the restraints that we had before.” •

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Shame of 38

The Shame of 38

In denying marriage equality, the New York Senate has betrayed the state's progressive tradition.

Darren Rosenblum and Sonia Katyal

December 14, 2009

By a vote of 38-24, the New York state Senate has decided to uphold marriage discrimination in New York state. How did we get here? In 2006, New York's highest court issued one of the most derided decisions in recent memory in Hernandez v. Robles. In that ruling, Judge Robert Smith's decision denied the right to marriage equality. He argued in part that marriage was about protecting children, and that heterosexual families could be formed accidentally and therefore were more fragile and needed the protection of the institution of marriage. Chief Judge Judith Kaye called the decision a "mishap," and several legal commentators have ridiculed the irrationality of this decision.

But we New Yorkers believed that our progressive state would not be thrown into the wilderness by a sorely mistaken Court of Appeals. Our leaders expressed support for marriage, in every body but the Senate. In 2008, with the strong financial support of the LGBT community, the Democrats took the state Senate. Yet it was a pyrrhic victory, as the Senate became the laughingstock of a nation inured to legislative malfeasance from California to Illinois.

In the dramatic debate that played out on Dec. 2, marriage-equality supporters conveyed the urgent justice of the business before the Senate. Perhaps most striking was the speech by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who had long opposed marriage equality. She told the story of her gay brother who had left the country to move to France because he felt rejected by our homophobic society, and she declared she would support the bill. Opponents made points devoid of reason, resorting to circular definition of marriage as between a man and a woman or avoiding speaking against the bill. Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was recently convicted on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his girlfriend, voted against equality despite his commitment to support it. He and many other heterosexual abusers still have the right to marry and yet we do not.

It is an insult to our dignity and that of our families. The Senate shamed our state by failing to establish the right of New Yorkers to marry without regard to sex, preventing our marriages, and incidentally depriving the state of substantial revenue from such weddings and increased tax revenue from newly married couples.

New York City has the largest lesbian and gay population of any U.S. city. It is the birthplace of the modern LGBT movement and the home to dozens of national and international LGBT civil rights and religious groups. We are in every industry from law to fashion, from public service to finance. We contribute enormously to the creativity and the prosperity of New York. Heterosexual New Yorkers know this — that's why recent polls indicate that a majority of New Yorkers support ending marriage discrimination. But the state Senate disregarded the civil rights of a large and deserving minority for the ignorant homophobia of the past.

The vote may encourage those who oppose our rights. Many employers have chosen to ignore same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions in spite of clear legal precedent and an executive order by Gov. David Paterson. The moral and economic effect of this is staggering. Lifelong partnerships prove meaningless for obtaining health insurance or any of the numerous public benefits that come with marriage. Even those of us who have married elsewhere are second-class citizens. We pay the same high taxes, only to support the rights of our straight fellow New Yorkers.

The Senate had an opportunity to rectify this injustice, and in shirking its duty, it failed all New Yorkers. New York overturned its sodomy law in 1980 — 23 years before the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit, and it established reproductive choice for women long before Roe v. Wade. Yet the Senate ignored this long, proud tradition in the forefront on human rights. Its members chose to put New York behind Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont in equality.

The vote, had it gone the other way, would have confirmed all that New York is — a model of the diversity that has made this state, and this country, thrive. The Senate's cowardice obligates lawyers to step into the breach. The New York State Bar Association, which has supported marriage equality for several years, has already condemned the Senate's actions. As lawyers, we must not simply profit from helping our clients but direct the law toward justice.

Darren Rosenblum is a professor at Pace Law School. Sonia Katyal is a professor at Fordham University School of Law.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How gay unions lost -- but won: Same sex marriage supporters dominated the debate in the Senate

How gay unions lost -- but won: Same sex marriage supporters dominated the debate in the Senate

How gay unions lost -- but won: Same sex marriage supporters dominated the debate in the Senate

Bill Hammond

Tuesday, December 8th 2009, 1:26 PM

Supporters of same-sex marriage sadly lost the 38-to-24 vote in the state Senate last week, but they won the argument.

On the merits, the debate wasn't even close.

In fact, with the lonely exception of Bronx Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., opponents literally said nothing to justify denying equal marital rights to tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

The only word 37 of them spoke was "no."

Their collective silence was shameful.

Before casting such a momentous vote, they owed the state at least one valid argument as to why gay and lesbian couples should be treated as second-class citizens.

Apparently, they didn't have one - at least, not one they cared to utter in public.

So the 30 Republicans and seven Democrats timidly held their tongues and let the other side do all the talking.

Thankfully, the pro-gay-marriage lawmakers rose to the historic nature of the occasion and did themselves proud.

In stark contrast to their clownish bickering and bungling through most of this year, the Democrats leading the debate conducted themselves with dignity.

They made arguments that were logical, personal, emotional and even comical - but above all, they made real arguments.

Brooklyn Sen. Eric Adams, for example, pointed out that some of the rationales for blocking same-sex marriages - that they're "unnatural" or an "abomination" - sound stomach-churningly similar to those used not so long ago to deplore interracial relationships.

"It was only 1967 - do you believe it? - 1967 before my son could marry Sen. Griffo's daughter, if he wanted to," Adams said, referring to a white colleague.

Manhattan Sen. Eric Schneiderman invoked the five most hallowed words in American history - "all men are created equal."

". . . Our mission as a nation is to make those words ever more true - to expand the vision of a nation in which all are created equal," he said. "Today we are challenged to join this great tradition."

Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who represents the Bronx and Westchester, brought some in the chamber to tears with the story of her eldest brother, who became estranged from his family because he was gay. She told of tracking him down in France and asking him to come home.

"He said, 'My father does not want to see me,' " she recalled on the Senate floor, her voice thick with emotion. "And I said, 'But your sister does.' "

Also compelling were the words of Staten Island Sen. Diane Savino, whose speech has become a minor YouTube sensation with almost 300,000 hits as of yesterday afternoon.

With self-deprecating humor, Savino argued that the real threat to the institution of marriage is not committed gay couples - such as Sen. Tom Duane and his longtime partner - but heterosexual couples who abuse the privilege.

As proof, she pointed to reality-TV shows such as "The Bachelor," on which women compete to marry a single man.

"We in government don't determine the quality or validity of people's relationships," she said. "If we did, we would not issue three-quarters of the marriage licenses we do."

The only opponent of gay marriage with the guts to make his case was Diaz. A Pentecostal minister, his feelings on the issue are deeply held. But his arguments were unconvincing.

He claimed, for example, that all the world's major religions oppose gay marriage - when, in fact, many priests and rabbis are undecided on the question, and some were lobbying for yes votes.

He also seemed unduly upset that Democratic leaders double-crossed him by bringing the bill to the floor - as if a secret promise between politicians were more important than civil rights.

The best that his fellow no voters could come up with was that the timing of the vote was wrong - as if couples hoping to marry and start families should have to wait for the economy to improve.

In truth, allowing the vote to happen - without knowing the outcome in advance, which is unheard of in Albany - was one of Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson's proudest moments. Gay marriage supporters fought the good fight and lost with honor.

It's the silent majority who should hang their heads in shame.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/columnists/hammond/index.html#ixzz0ZDML3iLc

Bay Windows - New England's largest GLBT newspaper

Bay Windows - New England's largest GLBT newspaper

by Chuck Colbert
Keen News Service
Tuesday Dec 8, 2009

The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee handed proponents of marriage equality an important first-round victory Dec. 7, approving a bill that could make New Jersey the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage.

The panel’s 7 to 6 approval came shortly after ten o’clock Monday night, after more than seven hours of emotional and at times highly personal testimony and discussion.

The committee hearing room, packed with gay marriage backers, erupted in cheers and applause with the vote tally. Afterwards, Steven Goldstein, executive director of Garden State Equality, spoke to a euphoric gathering.

"The marriage equality movement in America starts again right here," he said. The crowd shouted back, "Right here."

The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a showdown vote on Thursday, Dec. 11, and one that is also expected to be very close.

Judiciary committee chair Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), who voted against the measure, said, "There is no doubt about it, if [the bill] does come off the Senate floor, it will have a lot of momentum." But he told reporters, "As of this point, I don’t believe the votes have been secured to get it off the floor. I am quite sure they do not have the votes at this time."

Garden State Equality, the state’s leading gay civil rights organization, fielded an impressive show of force all day throughout the Statehouse and committee hearings. Altogether, about 1,300 marriage equality backers crowded into the Capitol, many wearing dark blue marriage equality T-shirts, marked with the tag line "Equality, the American dream." Beforehand, gay marriage proponents met at nearby hotel to map out the day’s activities. En masse, they trekked a short distance to the Statehouse, banners in hand and voices singing.

Estimates of gay marriage opponents numbered at several hundred.

Testimony during the committee hearing covered a full range of concerns including differences of opinions over how the bill might affect religious liberty, legal and civil rights issues, and access to medical health insurance and hospital visitation.

Marriage equality proponents pointed to the black civil rights movement, comparing marriage equality to that struggle in the 1960’s and suggesting that equal rights for the LGBT community is the civil rights struggle for this generation.

"Like race, our sexuality isn’t a preference," said veteran civil fights leader Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and former Georgia state Senator. "It’s immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us all from discrimination," said Bond, who had traveled from Washington, D.C.

Hospital visitation and medical health insurance, gay marriage backers said, were not adequately covered and provided for under New Jersey’s current civil unions law.

"When I arrived at the hospital to see my partner, I told the nurse I was a civil union partner," Paul Beckwith of Plainfield explained to committee members. "The nurse said, ’You cannot see him -- civil union business partners are not next of kin.’

"When I got sick a year later, a different hospital told my partner he couldn’t see me. Two hospitals, two places where the civil union law failed. It’s supposed to work like marriage, but that doesn’t happen in the real world."

For his part, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church acknowledged that the civil unions law might not be working. Pat Branigan of the New Jersey Catholic Conference said the state should enforce the civil union provisions, enacted in 2006, and investigate whether any " allegations" of discrimination against gay couples are true or not.

"The state of New Jersey should educate the public and should enforce state laws that provide protection for same sex" couples, he said.

A spokesperson for New Jersey State Bar Association, the largest lawyers’ organization, said civil unions is "second-class legal status" for gay couples.
Nevertheless, for gay marriage opponents, an overarching concern was fear over religious liberty protections for individuals and faith denominations opposed to licensing same-sex marriages on what they see as moral and scriptural grounds, as well as the natural law.

A large part of the testimony indeed focused on opposing religious perspectives -- differences of opinion between Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics who squaring off against people of faith who are liberal to progressive.

Josh Pruzanzsky, executive director of the Agudath of Israel of New Jersey, said same-sex marriage "would endanger religious freedom, inhibit free speech, and undermine the preferred status of marriage."

"It would convey a social message," he said, "that is deeply offensive to many residents of the state of New Jersey and lead to further erosion in the traditional conception of family."

But the bill’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a reform Jew, told a panel of three rabbis who testified that lawmakers should not base their votes on sacred texts, including the Torah.

"We are a country governed by laws that ensure equality and fairness for every individual," she said.

Dozens of clergy from both sides of the debate testified. The pro-marriage equality clergy included the Episcopal bishops of Newark and New Jersey, as well as ministers and pastors from mainline Protestant denominations, and Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis.

Progressive clergy members said their religious liberty and free-exercise First Amendment rights are already compromised because the state does not permit the solemnizing same-sex marriages already sanctioned by their religious beliefs.

"Keep the state out of my sanctuary," said several clergy members who testified.

To address religious concerns, the bill, called the "Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act," was amended to extend protections for religious liberties beyond clergy to include groups affiliated with faith traditions or denominations, which do not recognize or permit same-sex marriage.

Proposed by state Senator Bill Barroni (R-Mercer) the new language reads, "No religious society, institution, or organization shall be compelled to provide spade, services, advantages, good or privileges related to solemnization, celebration, or promotion of marriages is such solemnization, celebration, or promotion of marriage is in violation of the beliefs or such religious society, institution, or organization."

The bill also goes further than many religious exemptions, prohibiting lawsuits against any religious organization or employee for refusing "to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges" in connection with same-sex marriages.

Garden State Equality executive director Goldstein said, his organization is "fine" with the new amendment and its language protecting religious liberty.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gay advocates see bloodbath for New York Dem 'no' voters

stay involved get these bums out

Gay advocates see bloodbath for New York Dem 'no' voters

Elizabeth Benjamin

Monday, December 7th 2009, 4:00 AM
Gay advocates will push to replace freshman Sen. Joseph Addabbo.

Gay advocates are on the warpath after the state Senate killed same-sex marriage last week, and few Democratic senators who voted against the bill are safe from their wrath.

After spending more than $1 million to help the Democrats retake the chamber for the first time in decades, powerful gay activists and donors say they'll support challengers against anti-gay-marriage senators in 2010.

"It's going to be a bloodbath," one gay operative predicted. "We're going to use every single weapon in our quiver to take these people out. We either need to replace them or scare the hell out of them so they do the right thing."

Gay activists are considered some of the most effective fund-raisers in state Democratic political circles.

"The community is apoplectic ... and the commitment to building the Democratic majority is over," the operative added. "We won't make the same mistake twice."

That doesn't mean gay support will automatically be shifted to the Senate Republicans, who are mounting a campaign to take back the majority next fall.

The GOP failed to provide a single "yes" vote when the marriage bill was defeated, 38-24, last week.

But most of the rage is focused on the Democrats, particularly the eight senators who joined the GOP in voting "no." Of the eight, freshman Queens Sen. Joe Addabbo is target No. 1.

Also in the advocates' crosshairs: Sens. Shirley Huntley and George Onorato, both of Queens, and Sen. Bill Stachowski of Buffalo.

Huntley survived a primary challenge from former Councilman Allan Jennings last year. So far, no one has formally come forward to take her on in 2010.

Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gianaris and outgoing Councilman Eric Gioia have been mentioned as possible opponents to Onorato.

Sen. Darrel Aubertine, a conservative upstater, was never considered a possible "yes," and thus is safer than some of his fellow "no" voters. Ditto for Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, although advocates would like to recruit an opponent for him.

Gay advocates tried to get Councilman Lew Fidler to challenge Brooklyn Democrat Sen. Carl Kruger, who voted "no," but Fidler declined. Kruger would be tough to beat because he heads the powerful Senate Finance Committee and has $2 million in his campaign account .

Embattled Queens Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who faces possible expulsion by his colleagues for assaulting his girlfriend, was a surprise "no" vote.

He already has a primary challenger in Assemblyman Jose Peralta, who is backed by party leaders and has voted for gay marriage in the past.

- Real Estate Board of New York President Steven Spinola is putting his enrollment where his mouth is. Sources confirm the trade association head ditched the Democratic Party and signed up with the state Independence Party, which he is trying to build into a pro-business coalition to counter the powerful labor-backed Working Families Party.

State Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay said he's thrilled about his newest member and hopes Spinola will take on a leadership role.

"I'm hoping Steve will attract more like him," MacKay said.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/12/07/2009-12-07_activists_say_antisame_sex_marriage_senators_should_run_for_hills_not_reelection.html?r=news&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nydnrss%2Fnews+%28News%29#ixzz0Z0fT80CM

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tom Duane interview

Emotional picture of the two of us.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Staten Island senator faces backlash over same-sex marriage vote | Staten Island Featured Entries - Breaking News - - SILive.com

log cabins rep doing what they should

Staten Island senator faces backlash over same-sex marriage vote | Staten Island Featured Entries - Breaking News - - SILive.com

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- State Sen. Andrew Lanza has sparked the ire of some fellow Republicans here -- including a former GOP chair -- with his vote against same-sex marriage.

While not mentioning Lanza (R-Staten Island) by name, Leticia Remauro said the "state Senate passed up a historic opportunity."

"A marriage license is a legally binding instrument between two adults who wish to merge their assets and form a family," said Ms. Remauro, who served as Staten Island Republican Party chairwoman. "Government should not have the power to deny this based on gender. I hope the Senate will reconsider."

Weighing in, too, was Tom McGinley, communications director of the Richmond County Young Republicans.

"To see not one senator from my own party stand up for equality was very disheartening," said McGinley. "I guess they forgot one of the main pillars of the Republican Party is that of limited government. This isn't only government interference, it is an attack on our civil rights as Americans."

Yesterday, Lanza joined GOP senators in voting as a block to defeat a bill that would have permitted marriage between same-sex couples. They were joined by eight conservative Democrats to nix the bill 38 to 24.

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), who voted in favor of the measure, gave an impassioned and at times humorous endorsement of the bill on the Senate floor that has gotten more than 35,000 hits on YouTube and can be viewed on www.silive.com.

Lanza, who supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, told the Advance after the vote that he sat in his seat -- and didn't wander around the floor the way some members did -- while speeches in favor of passage were being made. He said he did so out respect for his "friend" state Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan), the bill's prime sponsor.

But Duane has said he felt "betrayed" by some in the GOP, who he said told him they would vote in favor but then went back on their word. He has refused to say who those members were.

Lanza could not be immediately reached for comment on that point, nor could Duane.

Meanwhile, Staten Island Republican Brandon Linker, a 2008 alternate delegate for John McCain, also expressed disappointment with the vote, saying, "When this bill passes down the road and the dust settles, the Republican Party will be labeled the party that denied civil rights, a contradiction to our original libertarian values."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Interview with Robert after vote on marriage equality

Gay City News > Albany Delivers Staggering, Bitter Defeat

Gay City News > Albany Delivers Staggering, Bitter Defeat


Since May, Senator Thomas K. Duane, a Chelsea Democrat and the chamber’s only out gay member, has said he had the votes to pass the marriage equality bill he sponsors. The Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the state’s LGBT lobby, has similarly voiced confidence that a bipartisan majority in the 62-member house would vote yes. In October, Governor David A. Paterson, who introduced the legislation that has now passed the heavily Democratic Assembly three times, referring to the Senate’s Democratic conference leader, said, “Senator [John] Sampson I’ve heard on occasion say that he thinks the bill can pass.”

But on December 2, when the vote finally came up, it wasn’t even close. By a 38-24 margin, with no Republicans voting yes, the New York State Senate rejected marriage equality for same-sex couples.

There will be debate, likely even rancor, in the weeks and months ahead over what went wrong, whether the bill should have come up for a vote if it were destined to fail so decisively, and what to do next.

The immediate reaction, however, was stunned bitterness.

“I really can’t believe that they don't think my family is as important as theirs,” said Cathy-Marino-Thomas, communications director for Marriage Equality New York, as she stood up to leave the Senate gallery after the vote. “I really can’t believe that so many senators could sit there and here all that positive feedback, look at it, and still vote against us.” With her wife Sheila, Marino-Thomas is raising their ten-year-old daughter in Brooklyn.

Jeffrey Friedman, who is raising a six-year-old son with Andy Zwerin in Rockville Center, asked for his reaction, said, “Just true disappointment. I guess I’m speechless at the moment. They had a chance to do something great today and they chose not to.”

“We should be incredibly angry,” Duane told Gay City News. “I’m incredibly angry. I think the community should be very, very, very, very, very angry.”

Stating emphatically, “I’m not the one who ever lied throughout this entire process,” Duane charged that at least eight of his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, had broken promises made to him, and said that he felt “betrayed.”

After initially declining to respond about what the consequences of such a betrayal are, Duane stated, “I believe in redemption and rehabilitation. No matter what people did today, we need to quickly provide them an opportunity to redeem themselves. That will get us the votes we had, that we have, and that we rightly deserve.”

Duane is not the only one who is alleging duplicitous behavior on the part of state senators. Paterson, who made the extraordinary gesture of going to the Senate floor after the vote, told Gay City News, “It’s very disappointing. It’s very disheartening. Certainly the promises that were made would have made it a much closer vote, if not a successful vote.”

The governor, too, signaled a strong commitment to soldier on.

“I am going to have to find a way to persuade these people to not be intimidated,” he said. “They will not suffer political damage, and it is the right thing to do. And that they will be on the right side of history rather than the wrong side, which is where they are now.”

Senator Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, was less charitable toward those he believed had walked on their commitments.

“I’m profoundly disappointed and sad about the outcome, partly because many of us were given assurances that we had support from colleagues on both sides of the aisle who said they would vote for this today and did not,” he said. “I think this is the worst case of political cowardice that I’ve ever seen.”

Other Democrats supporting marriage equality focused on the lack of a single GOP vote in favor of the bill.

“Nobody on the Republican side believed this was the right thing to do –– or did they not vote their conscience?,” asked Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger, alluding to a commitment made months ago by Minority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island to allow his members freedom in coming to their position on the legislation.

Jeff Cook, legislator advisor to the Log Cabin Republicans, challenged that analysis, arguing essentially the reverse.

“Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership promised to get us to a level where Republican support could put us over the top, and we just didn't get there today,” he told this reporter.

Both Duane and Alan Van Capelle, ESPA’s executive director, had consistently stressed the need for bipartisan support, and expressed confidence that it was building. With Bronx Democrat Ruben Diaz adamantly opposed –– the Pentecostal minister was the only senator who spoke against the bill during the floor debate (leaving the question of what motivated the other 37 no votes wide open) –– Democrats could not pass the bill by relying solely on their 32 members.

There was widespread speculation that at best 28 or 29 Democratic votes could be secured, which meant at least three Republicans had to be brought along.

If in fact some Republicans were taking a serious look at the legislation, it may have been the Democrats’ inability to muster more than 24 votes that led the GOP, after a bruising year in which control of the Senate changed party hands several times, to retreat from Skelos’ earlier commitment.

Certainly Van Capelle saved his strongest fire for a Democrat –– freshman Senator Joseph Addabbo of Queens.

“I think if there is disappointment in a real big way, I think I’m very disappointed in Joe Addabbo,” he said. “I think Joe Addabbo is better than his vote.”

Addabbo, who supported gay rights on the City Council and claimed an open mind on marriage equality in last fall’s campaign, was one of the prime recipients of support last fall from the Democratic State Senate Campaign Committee, to which the LGBT community made significant contributions. Addabbo also secured the maximum donation allowed –– $9,500 –– from software entrepreneur Tim Gill, founder of influential gay philanthropic and political action organizations.

Brian Foley, a freshman Democrat from Long Island, who was also uncommitted during last year’s campaign, supported the bill.

One defection was Queens freshman Democrat Hiram Monserrate, who is facing sentencing December 4 on a domestic violence conviction and also a primary challenge from the Queens Democratic organization. Monserrate, in his years on the City Council since 2001, was a vocal supporter of the LGBT community, and prior to his election to the Senate was on the record supporting equal marriage rights.

At 24 votes, gay advocates picked up precious little ground from where they were prior to last fall’s election that gave the Democrats a Senate majority, opening up for the first time the opportunity for a vote on the issue.

One significant gain, however, was Ruth Hassell-Thompson, an African-American Democrat whose district straddles the Bronx and Westchester, and was known to have religious reservations about the legislation. After a moving speech about her gay brother who was estranged from her family for decades, living in France, she said, “This vote is about giving people a choice. If there is condemnation in that choice, which there is in my church, that is between them and their God.”

Among the 18 Democrats who spoke about their support for the bill on the Senate floor, there was a consistent effort to emphasize that religious freedom was not at stake in passing the measure, and that marriage equality fit into the broader sweep of civil rights advances.

“I have religious beliefs, but when I walk through those doors, my Bible stays out,” African-American Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn said. “You don't have to be gay to respect that two people who meet and fall in love deserve to be married. You don't have to be black to understand the pain of slavery.”

Craig Johnson, a second-term senator from Long Island, said the marriage bill “is not about an attack on religious freedom.” He added, “If it were, I know we would all stand shoulder to shoulder to fight that attack. This is a time for this body to shine.”

Manhattan’s Eric Schneiderman said, “You can’t legislate morality, but you can legislate justice… This is not a question of religion, it’s a matter of equality.

Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx talked about how his grandmother, who lost her entire family in the Holocaust, welcomed a young man into Klein’s family in New York after he was disowned by his own for being gay. “I saw hatred,” Klein recalled her saying. “He deserves to have somebody. He’s a good catch.”

Daniel Squadron, elected last year to represent Lower Manhattan and portions of Brooklyn, said his own recent marriage “has only added to my personal sense of responsibility” for delivering equal rights to gay and lesbian couples. The separation of civil law and religious belief, he said, enhances the quality of religious life in the US. Krueger said her family came to America “to escape pogroms… because this is the country that guarantees religious freedom.”

Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat, reiterated the civil rights thread of the debate, saying, “I can see Dr. Martin Luther King smiling down on us today.” José Serrano, who represents portions of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, said, “History will once again prove this civil rights struggle right.”

In closing remarks in which he seemed to struggle to contain and convey the personal significance of the marriage equality question in his own life, Duane lamented what he said was the all too common view among legislators dealing with the state’s fiscal morass that “the time is never right for civil rights.” He added, “The paradox is that it’s always the right time to be on the right side of history.”

Diaz, for his part, closed by contradicting the argument that Adams of Brooklyn made, saying, “The Bible should never be left out.”

But that wasn’t the point of the day, according to Marty Rouse, the national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based LGBT lobby.

“This vote was not about religion, it was not about morality,” he said. “For a lot of people, especially those who were silent during the debate, it was all about politics. We need to play that political game smarter and more strategically, and we’re getting there, but there is still a long way to go.”

Pressed to say how the effort could have been “smarter,” Rouse said he would not Monday morning quarterback the lobbying, but did say that campaign contributions to an Addabbo, for example, are not the end of the matter.

“You can’t count on buying a vote,” he said. “We should have tried to get engaged in some of these Senate districts earlier. We need to be much more visible and strategic… find allies in these districts.”

None of the advocates or elected officials would say that pushing for the vote was a mistake or that they necessarily had to wait until after the 2010 elections to look for another bite of the apple.

“We asked for the chance to have our lives debated on the floor of the Senate and we decided that we wanted to get a roadmap for 2010, and we got what we wanted,” Van Capelle said, in a surprisingly upbeat spin on the day’s events. He added that it was too early to speculate on specific next steps.

Parker from Brooklyn echoed the value even in a losing vote.

“You at least know who the enemy is,” he said.

Cook, speaking for the Log Cabins, declined to rule out another Senate vote before next November. “We’ll see,” he said.

Asked when he would restart his colleague outreach, Duane said, “Immediately. Pressure should not decrease at all.”

In keeping with the moxie he demonstrated by coming down to the Senate after his bill was defeated, the governor said, “I’m the one who put the bill on the floor. You can blame me. I accept full responsibility. I thought this bill needed to be voted on. I thought up or down, this is a civil rights issue whose time has come. And I would put this bill out again next week if I thought there would be a different result.”

Asked if there were any point in trying to get another Senate vote next year, Paterson, not missing a beat, responded, “Yes. Winning.”

Christine Quinn, the out lesbian City Council speaker who was in Albany December 1 and 2 to help out in the final lobbying drive, was succinct in speaking to both the sadness and determination that labored to coexist late Wednesday afternoon.

"This is extraordinarily disappointing, no two ways about it,” she told Gay City News. “And people need to be disappointed. My father is 83 years old. Hopefully he’ll live to dance at my wedding. But I don't know, if they don't get to it in the next couple of years. But the only people who can ever declare us defeated is ourselves. So, we have to be disappointed, but we need to shake it off. We need to stay focused and keep people accountable."