Monday, February 28, 2011

Prop 8 News from DOMA for Dummies: This Week in Prop 8 for Feb 28, 2011

good summary for dummies

Prop 8 News from DOMA for Dummies: This Week in Prop 8 for Feb 28, 2011: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Can you even believe this week?

President Obama this week ordered an end to the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is huge. We'll check in with Marriage Equality USA's Molly McKay and Immigration Equality's Lavi Solloway to find out exactly what this means, in addition to talking about Dianne Feinstein's surprise announcement about DOMA's repeal.

And the surprises don't stop there. Ted Olson asked the California Supreme Court this week to expedite oral arguments against Prop Eight, and to start allowing gay couples to start marrying now.

In addition, we all thought Imperial County was out of the game for good, but a new foe popped up this week at the very last minute.

All that plus more good news from Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Whew!

The DOMA situation is pretty complicated, so let's break it down.

DOMA goes back to 1996, and has three main components. Section 1 just states the name Defense of Marriage Act. Section 2 says that no state has to recognize marriages from any other state. And Section 3 says that the federal government can only recognize marriages between opposite genders.

The law was passed in response to a court case in Hawaii, Baehr versus Miike, which fifteen years ago looked like it might legalize same sex marriage. We'll come back to that case in just a few minutes.

Now, in the last few years, five court cases have challenged DOMA in different ways. The one thing that ties them all together is that they all have awkward names.

First is Commonwealth of Massachusetts versus United States Department of Health and Human Services. Then there's Gill versus the Office of Personnel Management, Dragovich versus the US Department of the Treasury, Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management and Pedersen et al. versus the Office of Personnel Management, and Windsor versus United States.

And there have been other challenges, but those six are the most recent and the most likely to succeed. By the way, big big thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin for gathering a lot of this information together.

So, these cases were filed in 2009 and 2010, and the circumstances of each one is a little bit different.

Since Massachusetts legalized marriage equality, the state Attorney General there sued over Section 3 of DOMA when a legally marriage couple was denied burial in a federal veterans' cemetery. Judge Tauro, of the US District Court for Massachusetts in the First Circuit, ruled in our favor in July of 2010. The Department of Justice Appealed in October.

Gill was also filed in US District Court in Massachusetts, also challenged Section 3, also was decided in our favor by Judge Tauro in July of 2010. And also was appealed by Justice in October of 2010.

Dragovich is in the District Court for the Northern District of California, part of the Ninth Circuit, and concerns retirement benefits. That one again challenges Section 3, and although it hasn't yet been decided by Judge Wilkin, she did indicate that she was likely to rule in our favor.

Golinski's interesting because Karen Golinski isn't just a federal employee -- she's an employee of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And even though a judge has already ordered that she's entitled to spousal benefits, the federal government refuses to obey because of DOMA. So now, she's not just an employee -- she's also a plaintiff.

Pedersen was filed in the District Court of Connecticut, which is part of the Second Circuit. That's important because there's no precedent in the Second Circuit for dealing with sexual orientation discrimination. Five couples sued, again over Section 3, with filings due in March. The judge in that case is Vanessa Bryant.

And finally, Windsor. A couple from New York got married in Canada, one of them passed away, and the survivor was taxed on the estate as though they were single. Filings are due in March, the case challenges Section 3, the judge is Barbara Jones, and the court is US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Also part of the Second Circuit.

Okay. Got all that? Now, here's what's changing.

Until this week, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have gotten a lot of criticism for defending DOMA. Their rationale was that precedent compelled them to defend existing law.

Of course, they weren't defending it very hard. That annoyed anti-gay groups, who felt that they could do a better job.

Now, the Justice Department is saying that in the Second Circuit courts, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. So that means that they won't defend DOMA in Pedersen or in Windsor. They also said that they'll cease to defend DOMA in the first circuit court.

In Dragovich and Golinski, they still might. That's because "unconstitutional" in one court doesn't necessarily equal "unconstitutional" in another court. It's complicated. In essence, their position is that if you just casually glance at DOMA, there might potentially be a rational basis for keeping it around. But if you strictly scrutinize it, then it falls apart. COMPLICATED.

So, what's next?

For now, DOMA's still on the books. And with Justice out of the way, anti-gay members of Congress have the opportunity to step in and defend it themselves, which is what a lot of anti-gay groups wanted to happen all along.

They have until mid-March to decide exactly what they're going to do, but they've been preparing for this for weeks just in case, so we expect them to have a pretty well-organized campaign.

This could also affect on a lot of other cases, starting with Prop 8 case.

I caught up with Marriage Equality USA's Molly McKay in the Castro this week to find out more.

Matt: "So, how do you think the wording of Obama's decision, specifically about using strict scrutiny, how is that going to affect, or potentially could affect, the Prop 8, Perry versus Schwarzenegger? Do you think that could have some ramifications?"

Molly: "Absolutely. The fact that they've weighed in and the President of the United States and the Attorney General of the United States lay out the case for why they believe that heightened scrutiny should apply for sexual orientation is really powerful. And will make a huge difference in the litigation as it's moving forward. That was as big as what they declared today, really."

And oh yeah! The American Foundation for Equal Rights requested this week that the Supreme Court expedite oral arguments against Prop 8 and that the Ninth Circuit Court lift the stay.

The Prop 8 case lives in two different courts right now: the California Supreme Court is considering standing, or who has the right to defend Prop 8. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding whether Prop 8 is constitutional.

If the courts agree with AFER, then it could mean that we'll hear arguments really soon about who has standing to intervene, rather than in September as was originally planned. It would also mean that the Ninth Circuit would issue its decision on constitutional grounds much sooner. It could also potentially mean that gay couples could start getting married right away. Like, this afternoon. So ... ?

Matt: "What do you think the chances are of them expediting the arguments?"

Molly: "Honestly? Hope springs eternal. No matter what, whether it's spring, summer or fall, we will be there, back on the California Supreme Court steps, and we will be watching that hearing. In some ways, it's sort of a side-journey, because ultimately that case may be the one that's decided on the constitutional merits and things are moving faster, the world's moving forward. It's a great suit, can't have better legal advocates. So whether we win on standing or even better maybe the Constitutional issues, change is in the air for sure. And of course, we're so lucky to have a front seat to so much that goes on here. But it calls us to be responsible for that, and to make sure that we show up and we represent our entire country on all of these issues, because this is where so much of it is happening. And the fact that Feinstein, our Senator, is now the one repealing DOMA! Huge! Totally exciting. California rocks."

Oh yeah! Dianne Feinstein. We're not even done talking about the major surprises this week. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she intends to introduce a bill to repeal DOMA. So even though there's all these judicial challenges floating around, DOMA might disappear legislatively.

That's a big deal for everyone, but especially for folks working towards immigration equality. The US continues to deport legally married spouses because of DOMA. For more on what that means, let's check in with Lavi Soloway. He's the founder of Immigration Equality and Stop the Deportations.

Matt: "So, Lavi, tell me about one or two of the binational couples that you're representing. Before today, what was your strategy for fighting their deportation?"

Lavi: "Sure. We're representing a group of about a dozen gay or lesbian binational couples, all of whom are married. And in each case, the foreign spouse is in deportation proceedings. And our strategy beginning last summer when the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down as unconstitutional in Boston by a federal court judge, our strategy has been to file I-130 petitions, which are marriage-based green card petitions, on behalf of those couples. And to fight for a halt in deportation while those petitions are being considered."

Matt: "So, before today, what was the administration's response to those petitions?"

Lavi: "Well until today, the expectation was that because of of the Defense of Marriage Act, those petitions would necessarily be denied. That all changed on Wednesday, though. Because if the administration, if we take the administration at its word that it truly believes that he Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, it's clearly acted consistently with that by withdrawing its defense from cases currently pending in the first circuit, we also expect them to exercise prosecutorial discretion, for example in the immigration cases, and not give effect to unconstitutional and discriminatory law, the Defense of Marriage Act. We now have two new voices arguing our position. President Obama and Attorney General Holder. And we believe that we will soon be able to expand our outreach effort to Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Clinton and try to bring in all government agencies that have discretion in how they deal with gay and lesbian bi-national couples, to try to put in some intermediate policy measures that will ensure that as DOMA is being dismantled, being relegated to history, that it does not any more have its pernicious discriminatory effect."

Matt: "So one more bonus question: what do you think of Dianne Feinstein's bill? Do you think it'll have any impact on your work and whether it'll have an impact on the Prop 8 cases, whether those'll have an impact on her? How does this change the ecosystem?"

Lavi: "We're really excited to see Senator Feinstein's announcement on Wednesday that she'll be introducing a bill in the Senate to repeal DOMA. It was followed the next day by Representative Nadler in the house, announcing that he would re-introduce the DOMA repeal bill, Respect for Marriage Act, that had 128 co-sponsors in the last Congress. We believe that this is extremely important because with a DOMA repeal bill pending in Congress, we'll now have all three branches of government in unison all working towards the end of DOMA. Again, the executive branch declaring it unconstitutional, the Congress working to repeal it, and the Judiciary, which has so far struck it down as unconstitutional."

Matt: "What do you think its chances are in Congress? With the election bringing so many Republicans into Congress, is it going to face a hostile reception?"

Lavi: "I think that the introducing a bill to repeal DOMA in the present Congress is a brilliant move, and a wise tactic. Not because we're necessarily sure that we can count up enough votes to pass it into law, but because any bill like this typically takes a lot of work to build a foundation of support. In the last Congress, we saw 120 Democrats joining together to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. We hope we can top that number in this Congress and add a healthy group of Senators. Senator Leahy announced today that he would join Senator Feinstein as a co-sponsor. And this is the road to victory. It's not necessarily a question of whether it would pass this year or next, but whether or not we can build on substantial support that exists in Congress, perhaps even expand this to become bi-partisan, and eventually pass it and repeal it. I think it's very important that Congress take responsibility to repeal DOMA because in a sense that's the branch of government that should be held accountable for passing it into law in the first place."

Matt: "Right. Well Lavi Soloway, thank you so much for joining us."

Lavi: "Sure."

Okay. I think that's everything with DOMA for this week.

Aside from AFER's requests, the Prop 8 case was pretty quiet this week until Friday, when a clerk from Imperial County stepped in, and said that he wanted to defend Prop 8. They've tried this before, and they messed it up pretty royally. Maybe this time they'll have more success. They only sure thing is that it means more delays.

Big headlines across the country this week: in Delaware, lawmakers anticipate introducing civil union legislation sometime next month. In Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed civil unions into law, a long-fought battle that started 15 years ago with Baehr versus Miike -- which, I told you we'd come back to that case. In Rhode Island, a new survey shows a majority support marriage equality, which as always, is our cue to recognize that Rhode Island, you've got style. And the Maryland Senate passed a marriage equality bill.

So start planning your wedding now.

To find out when marriage is coming to your state, subscribe to our weekly updates. And click over here to watch our recent episodes and get all caught up.

See you next week, at which point we may all be getting married.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Court: NYer in gay marriage can inherit as spouse - Topix

Court: NYer in gay marriage can inherit as spouse - Topix: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York appeals court has upheld a ruling allowing a survivor of a same-sex marriage to inherit as a spouse. Gay-rights advocates say it's the first appellate ruling of its kind in the state.

J. Craig Leiby and H. Kenneth Ranftle were legally married in Canada. Thursday's appellate ruling says Leiby is therefore entitled to recognition as the surviving spouse in a dispute over Ranftle's estate. He died in 2008.

One of Ranftle's brothers, Richard, had challenged the legitimacy of the marriage and sought to contest the will. It left most of the estate to Leiby.

Richard Ranftle's lawyer didn't immediately return a call. A lawyer for Leiby notes the decision builds on New York court rulings recognizing out-of-state gay marriages in other contexts, such as health benefits.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act

Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON – The Attorney General made the following statement today about the Department’s course of action in two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman:

In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court. Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment. While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard.

Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated. In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit. We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation. I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option. The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

Furthermore, pursuant to the President ’ s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

The Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense. At the same time, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because – as here – the Department does not consider every such argument to be a “reasonable” one. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute in cases, like this one, where the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional.

Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional. Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gay City News > Marriage Equality NY Stages Biggest Capitol Push

Gay City News > Marriage Equality NY Stages Biggest Capitol Push: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

In its largest Albany effort to date, the grassroots group Marriage Equality New York (MENY) organized roughly 300 activists for its annual legislative lobby day on February 8.

The effort resulted in meetings with state senators or their staffs from 58 of the 62 Senate districts, including a 15-minute sit-down with Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who is the majority leader.

“Senator Skelos listened attentively, and I felt he was genuinely interested in our story,” said Habi Reilly, a Cedarhurst mother with a 34-year-old gay son who attended the lobby day with her husband, Joe. “He said he was planning to present the bill to his conference.”

Anne Tischer, a longtime lesbian activist from Rochester, also called on Republicans, holding meetings in three of the four GOP State Senate offices that represent that area. Reflecting on meetings with Senator Joseph Robach and staff members of Senators James Alesi and George Maziarz, she said, “It’s new that they are talking in concert.” Elaborating on what it meant that Republicans are discussing the issue within their own ranks, Tischer explained, “They don’t want to be viewed as obstructionist… That’s why we got such a good hearing.”

Tischer concluded, “This is the most optimistic I have been in the eight years I have been doing marriage equality activism.”

Winning over Republicans, of course, is critical. When the Senate took up marriage equality in December 2009, the bill failed on a 38-24 vote, with eight Democrats joining every single Republican in voting no. The GOP now controls the Senate 32-30. No Republican has yet announced his support for equal marriage rights, and the tally of Democratic supporters has grown by two, to 26 of their 30 members.

Somewhere among the remaining four Democrats and the 30 Republicans, six votes have to be found, and, as importantly, the GOP majority, which is the gatekeeper on which bills receive floor consideration, has to agree to allow the measure, passed three times by the heavily Democratic Assembly, to be considered again.

On that second score, the news continues to be promising. In October, when Skelos was in the midst of his party’s drive to recapture the Senate after two years in the minority, he told the Log Cabin Republicans he would take the bill up with his party colleagues and expected them to agree to a floor vote.

The majority leader has met with marriage equality advocates in his district office on several occasions, but in the past he has generally not made himself available during a work-week lobbying effort. On a day when many senators pleaded other business in tasking their staff to meet with marriage activists, Skelos’ willingness to sit down for a meeting, as gaping budget problems consumed Albany, was noteworthy.

The following day, after a Manhattan breakfast hosted by Crain’s New York, Skelos, in comments first reported by the Advocate, said he expected a governor’s “program” bill on marriage equality to come from Democrat Andrew Cuomo, and that he would make Chelsea Democratic Senator Tom Duane, the only out gay member of the chamber, the sponsor.

That comment was significant in two respects. First, it was another in a series of confirmations by Skelos that he expects marriage equality to be on the Senate agenda this year. The majority leader also took the extraordinary step of giving a member of the minority party control of legislation that could win passage.

“That’s an amazing sign,” out lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said of Skelos’ anointing of Duane as the bill’s sponsor. “That is really unusual. No one would be shocked if he had given it to someone in his conference.”

Asked for comment, Duane’s office told Gay City News in an email message that the senator “was pleased to hear about Senator Skelos’ comments. Joined by strong support and partnership with Governor Cuomo, Senator Duane continues to work with all members of the State Senate to make marriage a reality in New York State.”

Quinn herself met with Skelos the day before the MENY activists were in Albany. She acknowledged that much of the conversation concerned the state budget and emphasized that it was a private meeting she would not discuss in detail, but the speaker added, regarding the issue of marriage, “He was very consistent with his public statements that he was willing to allow the bill to move forward.”

Both Tischer and the Reillys commented that the turnout and execution of this year’s lobby day demonstrated the growing sophistication of grassroots efforts aimed at winning equality. Their views were echoed by others on hand in Albany that day.

“It was really well organized,” said RoseAnn Hermann, a Westchester mother of a lesbian and two sons, one gay and one straight. Among several meetings she attended, she joined a group of about 20 in speaking with an aide to Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza.

“We had straight clergy, Staten Island parents, gay and lesbian couples, local business owners,” Hermann said of that meeting. “It was really a microcosm of our society.”

Joann Prinzivalli, another Westchester activist who is a leader of the New York Transgender Organization (NYTRO), also praised MENY’s success in putting the event together, saying it was like a smaller-scale Equality and Justice Day, the annual Albany lobbying push by the Empire State Pride Agenda scheduled this year for May 10.

Noting the difficulty she encountered getting a marriage license in White Plains where she lives — “If I can’t marry a man, I ought to be able to marry a woman,” she recalled telling the New York City clerk’s office, which finally granted the form — Prinzivalli said, “Marriage equality is a trans issue, as well as an LGB issue.”

She acknowledged, however, that should the Senate take up equal marriage rights prior to the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act also pending, she “would like to see those I’ve worked with on marriage help out on GENDA.”

After her meeting with Rochester-area Senate offices, Tischer feels confident that Republicans know the time has come for satisfying the demand by New York same-sex couples for relationship recognition, even if some in the GOP hold out hope that civil unions will do the trick.

“They were testing the waters,” she said of the reaction she got in her meetings last week. Republicans were told in no uncertain terms, Tischer added, that nothing less than full marriage rights was acceptable.

“They know that marriage means money for New York State from weddings here,” she said. “And they see the polls. Now it’s a matter of getting the politics done. And addressing their fear of facing a primary challenge or losing the Conservative Party line in the general election.”

Hermann’s meeting with Lanza’s staff left her more cautious.

“It was a tough meeting,” she said, adding that the Staten Islander’s aide “had a smile on his face, but he didn’t get it. He would say, ‘Oh, but that’s just an isolated incident,’ when we would mention a problem that comes up from not having the right to marry… He was like a nice bully.”

And Dean Dafis, MENY’s New York City chapter leader, provided a reminder that more work remains to be done among Democrats as well. All four of the holdouts in that party represent city districts — and one, the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz, is implacably opposed to any gay rights advances.

The other three are Brooklyn’s Carl Kruger and Shirley Huntley and Joseph Addabbo of Queens. Dafis said that at a meeting with Brooklyn’s John Sampson, the Democratic minority leader told activists that Huntley, who was opposed by a number of gay groups in last year’s primary, could still be brought along.

Significantly, however, Dafis acknowledged that Addabbo, first elected to the Senate in 2008 with significant LGBT support, remained a tough sell. Noting that the senator himself did not sit down with advocates in Albany, Dafis said, “His office met with our folks. He’s a challenge. Maybe he could be persuaded. We are working on showing support in his district by getting community board resolutions so that he can’t say again he’s only voting the way his district feels.”


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New York Couple Marriage License Denied On Valentine’s Day | The New Civil Rights Movement

New York Couple Marriage License Denied On Valentine’s Day | The New Civil Rights Movement: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

New York Couple Marriage License Denied On Valentine’s Day

by David Badash on February 14, 2011 · Comments (1)

A same-sex New York City couple, Rob Lassegue and Manuel Reyes, attempted to join the more than 1.2 million couples who, since 1930, have been joined in marriage at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau in lower Manhattan. Their request for a license was denied.

In this video you can hear Cathy Marino-Thomas, the board member president of Marriage Equality New York, talk about all the rights the couple won’t be able to access, (1138 federal, plus over a thousand state rights.) It’s important to remember that on top of right, and, to some, more important than the rights and responsibilities marriage affords couples, marriage means something else: respect.

You may remember Rob Lassegue and Manuel Reyes from this interview we published Saturday. I hope you’ll remember them, and all the other same-sex couples who want the rights, responsibilities, and respect that come with being able to say, “I do,” when marriage equality comes up in your state. And, please remember, it’s time to repeal DOMA too.

(Read Mike Lavers’ report, “Marriage Equality New York stages Valentine’s Day protest.” Our thanks to him for the video!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New York State (NY) Poll * January 27, 2011 * Gay Marriage Wins Highest Supp - Quinnipiac University – Hamden, Connecticut

New York State (NY) Poll * January 27, 2011 * Gay Marriage Wins Highest Supp - Quinnipiac University – Hamden, Connecticut: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

January 27, 2011 - Gay Marriage Wins Highest Support Ever In New York, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Oppose Public Financing For State Candidates

Word format

By the highest margin ever, 56 - 37 percent, New York State voters support legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to 51 - 41 percent support, the previous high, measured in a June 23, 2009 survey, by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

In today's survey, support for gay marriage is 69 - 25 percent among Democrats and 55 - 39 percent among independent voters. Republicans are opposed 52 - 41 percent. Men back gay marriage 54 - 40 percent and women support it 58 - 34 percent. Support is highest among suburban voters, 61 - 33 percent. New York City voters support gay marriage 55 - 37 percent and upstate voters support it 54 - 39 percent.

By a 64 - 24 percent margin, New York State voters say an independent commission, not the State Legislature, should create the districts from which member of the U.S. Congress and the State Legislature are elected. Support is strongest, 70 - 21 percent, among independent voters and is over 60 percent among all other groups.

But despite pledges from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and many legislators to establish non- partisan redistricting, voters say 49 - 34 percent that they won't keep their promise.

"Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn't make a big issue of same-sex marriage in his state-of-the- state speech, but he said he was for it and so are most New Yorkers," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"New York State voter attitudes about gay marriage have shifted dramatically since April 15, 2004, when Quinnipiac University first asked about gay marriage and found voters opposed the measure 55 - 37 percent."

"There's a lot of cynicism out there. Former Mayor Ed Koch's call for non-partisan legislative and congressional redistricting won a lot of support during last year's campaign. By more than 2-1, voters like the idea. But many doubt that Albany will do it," Carroll added.

New York State voters oppose 51 - 40 public financing for candidates for governor, other statewide offices and the State Legislature. Democrats back campaign financing by a narrow 46 - 43 percent, but opposition is 63 - 29 percent among Republicans and 49 - 45 percent among independent voters.

Voters say 48 - 42 percent that state legislators who are lawyers should be required to publicly list their clients. Independent voters back this measure 57 - 35 percent while Democrats split 45 - 44 percent. Republicans are opposed by a narrow 47 - 44 percent.

"With a firm grip on their wallets, New Yorkers are opposed to spending tax dollars on just about anything, including campaign finance reform to clean up Albany," Carroll added.

Approvals for President, Senators

New York State voters approve 53 - 40 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, compared to his 48 - 43 percent approval December 8.

Voters approve 57 - 24 percent of the job U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is doing and give U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a 48 - 21 percent job approval rating.

From January 18 - 24, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,436 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and the nation as a public service and for research. For more data or RSS feed-, call (203) 582-5201, or follow us on Twitter.

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Charles Schumer is handling his job as United States Senator?