Volume 81, Number 4 | June 23 - 29, 2011
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Photo by Gay City News

Organizers of a June 17 vigil at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher St. told the crowd that calls to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the state Senate switchboard remained essential.

Marriage activists call for phone blitz of Skelos

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

As the state Legislature wrapped up its business last week –– with only one scheduled day remaining in the session (a deadline that proved flexible the following Monday) –– activists stepped up their visibility in the drive to make marriage equality a reality.

With some activists just making their way out of the capital along with the legislators Friday evening, a group of roughly 100 New Yorkers gathered at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher St. in the West Village for a vigil to protest the lack of final action last week on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s gay marriage bill.

The demonstration was called by the direct-action group Queer Rising, which earlier this year twice blocked traffic to press the governor to follow through on his pledge to bring gay marriage up for a vote — focused on the Senate Republican majority’s failure to allow Cuomo’s bill to go to the floor.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said that his party was still not convinced that the bill would not have “unintended consequences” on religious bodies in the state.

The measure, which passed the Assembly, for the fourth time since 2007, on June 15, at that point remained one vote shy of the 32 needed for passage. The roster of supporters stood at 29 of the 30 Democrats and two of the 32 Republicans.

Queer Rising activists urged the crowd to take out their cell phones on the spot to call both Skelos’s Albany office and the main Senate switchboard to reach Republicans who remained undecided. Holding the two phone numbers aloft on large posters, they also encouraged the crowd to take photos of the numbers and post them to their Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Reverend Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, an L.G.B.T.Q. congregation in Midtown, said the claim that Cuomo’s bill does not sufficiently protect religious freedom “is an insult to the democratic process and to those of us who are people of faith and believe in the separation of church and state.”

Queer Rising was back at it two days later, holding a larger rally in Union Square Park. At that event, the roughly 250 demonstrators demanded that June 19 be “the last day of marriage inequality in New York State,” a goal that was not met when the Legislature, meeting on June 20, focused most of its attention on reaching an agreement on New York City’s rent-regulation guidelines.

Other activists also chose Father’s Day to press for full marriage equality for gay and lesbian families. New Yorkers United for Marriage, a coalition of the leading advocacy groups in the fight, held events led by supportive clergy statewide.

At the L.G.B.T. Community Center, on W. 13th St., on that day, openly lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was joined by openly lesbian Councilmember Rosie Mendez, as well as Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito of East Harlem, plus state Senator Adriano Espaillat from Upper Manhattan in a show of Latino community support for the bill.

On Tues., June 21, as the governor and state Assembly and Senate leaders continued to debate rent protections, putting off for the time being any consideration of marriage, advocates rallied in Albany in the park next to the Capitol.

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