March 26, 2009

High Level Support for Same-Sex Marriage in New York

Two of the most powerful politicians in the state of New York, U. S. Senator Charles Schumer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have recently stated very strong support for legalizing same-sex marriage in that state.

First, Senator Schumer:

Sen. Charles Schumer reached out to gay leaders earlier this month and convened a meeting at an upscale Manhattan restaurant to make an important announcement: He was supporting gay marriage after years of opposing it.

The reversal marked a significant shift for the Democratic senator and gave further momentum to gay marriage in New York, where every other statewide Democratic official supports such unions.

Schumer's change, some political observers suggested, stemmed from pressure to bring his position on gay marriage in line with the other officials, while coming at a time when support for same-sex unions is strong in New York. Also, it's likely New York's gay rights interest groups, which played a role in Democrats retaking control of the state Senate last November, were pressing Schumer to change his position.

"At this point we have a fair amount of knowledge that supporting gay marriage in the Northeast is not the kiss of death politically" that it could be as recently as a decade ago, said Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and research director at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA.

If anything, Schumer's support for gay marriage is likely to bolster momentum for legalizing gay marriage in New York, where a gay marriage bill passed the Assembly in 2007.

Although not a change of position for him, Mayor Bloomberg restated his support yesterday:

Mayor Bloomberg said Wednesday night he stands ready to ask the Legislature to allow gay marriage in New York State, but doesn't know when the time will be right.

"We see that the tide is turning, that support is mounting," Bloomberg told the annual dinner of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. "Make no mistake, the time will come ... and we will pass this bill."

Bloomberg has made similar pledges to testify in Albany for almost three years, but the GOP-run state Senate blocked any such bill.

Democrats now run the Senate but have not been able to round up votes to pass the measure - increasing pressure on Bloomberg to follow through.

"I don't know whether it's more likely or not" this year, Bloomberg said before his speech. "If they consider a bill, I think they should pass it, and I would be happy to testify for it."

Let's hope that day comes soon.

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