Sunday, June 19, 2011

Marriage: New York Republicans looking for poison pill approach?

The news reports are that the fate of the New York marriage bill, for this year, and perhaps next year, will be up to the Republican state senate majority caucus - Senator Dwan Skelos, the majority leader, has left it up to his causuc to decide whether to bring the bill to a vote - and he noted that if they do decide to allow a vote, that it would be a "conscience vote" and that no vote would be taken if the majority within the majority caucus would prefer to impose party discipline - there would not be a vote taken at all in the event that party discipline is required.

The whip count isfor marriage is 31 - which includes 29 of the 30 Democrats (all except the implacable Ruben Diaz, Sr., who inexplicably voted in favor of the Dignity for all Students Act last year - which means he really is not all norally bad, but rather a particularly dark shade of gray).

(Meanwhile, the whip count for GENDA is already at 32 - enough for passage, but again, in the hands of the Republican majority leader and his caucus full of senators who falsely refer of us as "perverts and predators.")

However, getting that last vote might require unacceptable concessions.

The law, as of right now, is that same sex couples can go to neighboring Canada, Vermont, Massachusetts or Connecticut (or even several other jurisdictions that are a longer drive, or a plane flight away), get married legally in that other jurisdictin, and right now, today, have all the rights appurtenant to marriage in New York State.

That is because the New York State legislature has never passed a state-level Defense Against Marriage Act (called the Defense of Marriage Act by the alternate-reality proponents of such laws).  While the New York Court of Appeals in 2006 left the performance of marriage within the state to a decision to be made by the legislature, the courts have consistenty held that marriages legally performed out of state are fully enforceable in New York.

So if the Republicans decide that they won't support a bill that merely addresses the idea of expanding the connubium of marriage to make the institution gender neutral (extending the right to same-sex couples does not in any way adversely affect the rights of opposit-sex couples), they would be offering a poison pill defense - making the bill so unpalatable that no reasonable supporter should be willing to vote for it.

Some of the proposals for the poison pill will institutionalize the primacy of religious-based discrimination outside of the churches themselves.  Such a pill should be left untasted.  It would be far better to wait for redistricting and the 2012 elecstions, so that marriage, and GENDA both, can be enacted by a new legoslature in January 2013 as a top legislative priority,

The Republican majority must know that it is on borrowed time - the results of the 2010 census will resound as the death knell to Republican domination of the state senate in New York, even though the Republicans are the ones who will be drawing the district lines, the census results will result in at least 35 democratic senators coming out of the 2012 elections.

My advice to Democratic senators - if the Republicans go for a poison pill approach, do not take the pill!  It would be better to wait for real equality than to lessen the rights of LGBT New Yorkers who were and will be married out of state and already have marriages that are fully valid in New York State under New York law.  Make marriage, GENDA, and the Republican intransigence a major 2012 campaign theme, and then commit to doing justice in January 2013.

Addendum - June 21, 2011: This afternoon there were news reports that deals hed been cut on a "framework" for dealing with the rent control and tax cap issues, but the reports indicated that the Senate majority was considering adding "religious protections" to the marriage bill - there are more than adequate religious protections in existing marriage law, and to create a separate, lesser marriage right so that someone claiming to be "religious" can discriminate by providing spousal benefits to some married amployees and not others is a poison pill and should not be condoned.

If they want to provide religious protection, the bill should contain a provision that prohibits ministers of religion from performing any marriages as witnesses on behalf of the state (if they are also acting as presiders for their religious rite) - we should have a system similar to that used in Europe, in which the civil rights are not confused with the sacramental rites.

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