Vote on Gay Marriage
Published: June 3, 2009
A version of this article appeared in print on June 4, 2009, on page A26 of the New York edition
Six states have now made it legal for same-sex couples to marry. New York is not one of them. Gov. David Paterson wants the state to guarantee that right, and the protections that come with it, and the Assembly approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage last month. Malcolm Smith, the leader of the State Senate, insists that he, too, favors marriage for gay couples, but he won’t let a bill go to the floor unless he’s privately lined up enough votes.
It is time for Mr. Smith and his fellow senators to decide this important matter in public.
There are few new arguments to be made behind closed doors. By now, the Senate’s 62 members have heard from every interest group. They know the polls and the politics. They know that New York is lagging behind others — including New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch, who had previously defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage on Wednesday.
And if New York’s Assembly is any guide, once the matter comes to the floor, these senators will also recognize that same-sex marriage is a basic civil right that can no longer be denied to the citizens of this state.
Thomas Duane, the lead senator on this bill, argues that ultimately his colleagues will see the issue clearly, both in theory and in their personal experiences. He says that most lawmakers, like most Americans, either have a gay family member or know a gay couple down the street or a gay co-worker in their office or some of the many gay lawyers, doctors, politicians and journalists in their community.
“How can they look these people in the eye and not want to treat them equally?” Mr. Duane said. “How can they look me in the eye?”
Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council, who also has been in Albany working in favor of the same-sex marriage bill, offers another reason why a public vote is necessary. “History will record what all of us do on this issue,” she said. “This is one of those moments when you should want to be counted.”
New York’s Legislature has about two more weeks left in this year’s session. Its work will not be done until the Senate publicly debates and then votes to legalize same-sex marriage.