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Volume 77, Number 5 | July 4 - 10, 2007


Gay marriage bill is a proud victory

When he ran for governor, Democrat Eliot Spitzer pledged to enact marriage equality legislation. Looking to the new legislative session that began in January, the Empire State Pride Agenda, a leading statewide L.G.B.T. civil rights organization, said it would get a State Assembly vote on same-sex marriage rights this year. When Daniel O’Donnell, the openly gay Upper West Side Assembly Democrat, assumed sponsorship of the Spitzer marriage bill on May 1, he said it was critical that someone who would be personally affected by the legislation lobby his or her colleagues and that he would do everything he could to win a vote by the end of June.

On Tues., June 19, 85 members of the Assembly — nearly 57 percent — stood up in acknowledgment of the dignity and equality of same-sex marriage.

Spitzer delivered on his promise to propose a bill with the imprimatur of the governor, the Pride Agenda worked tirelessly to court legislators and mobilize support on the ground statewide, and O’Donnell won the day, as well as the respect of his colleagues, for the grace he brought to his advocacy.

“I could not have survived my late teens and my 20s if I did not have John Banta in my life,” O’Donnell said on the floor of the Assembly, referring to his longtime partner. “What I learned from him was that I should love myself.”

It was momentous, to say that least, to witness a gay man on the floor of a state legislative chamber speaking in such passionate terms about the love he feels for and from his longstanding partner. O’Donnell spoke for every gay man and woman at that historic moment, and did so eloquently and forcefully.

The team that Alan Van Capelle leads at the Pride Agenda, including, most prominently, Joe Tarver in New York and Ross Levi in Albany, is surely one of the smartest and hardest-working groups of advocates engaged in the gay civil rights movement. They successfully kept the gay marriage issue visible not only in Albany but in communities and newspapers across the state, and in the process, garnered endorsements from large numbers of religious and labor leaders throughout New York.

Finally, the governor honored his pledge by moving the issue as quickly as anyone could have hoped. Whatever other differences the gay community may have with him, Eliot Spitzer deserves real credit this Pride season.

As the gay community and its allies celebrate this latest milestone, let’s remember that much more work remains to be done to make marriage equality a reality in New York State. The Republican State Senate, led by Majority Speaker Joe Bruno, will not move the marriage measure without significant pressure from residents, politicians, the media and other stakeholders throughout the state. Now that the momentum has shifted, we call on all to keep up the pressure.

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