New York Next?

Andrew Cuomo pushes state legislators to vote for same-sex 'marriage'

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presents his 2011-12 budget proposal in Albany, New York February 1.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presents his 2011-12 budget proposal in Albany, New York February 1. (photo: REUTERS/Hans Pennink)

ALBANY, N.Y. — The battle over same-sex “marriage” has reached a critical point in New York, where the Democratic governor and well-financed homosexual-rights activists are aggressively lobbying lawmakers to legalize homosexual “marriage.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been campaigning across the state, urging voters to lean on their representatives to vote in favor of legislation that would make New York the sixth and largest state in the country to legalize same-sex “marriage,” which opponents say would have a dramatic impact on the issue nationwide.

“This is not just about a fight in New York. If we lose the battle here, we will ultimately lose the fight across the country,” predicts Michael Long, chairman of the New York Conservative Party, which is adamantly opposed to any efforts to redefine marriage other than as an institution between one man and one woman.

“I can’t stress it enough that marriage is special, and it must be defended. A nation only survives that has moral standards,” Long said.

Long said Cuomo was seeking to appeal to liberal voters by making the passage of a same-sex “marriage” bill his top legislative priority. Presenting the issue as a “pressing issue of basic fairness and civil rights,” the governor’s push comes on the heels of his success in hammering out a budget deal which eliminated a $10 billion deficit and reduced state spending by 2%, a rarity in Albany politics.

Observers said the governor’s budget pleased many, but it also frustrated liberal-leaning voters.

“This is nothing but pure, raw politics, trying to appeal to the left,” Long said of the push for same-sex “marriage.”

“Is this a way for (Cuomo) to re-establish his political credentials? It could be,” said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, the public-policy arm of the Catholic bishops in New York.

However, as aggressive as Cuomo has been on the issue, it still appears unlikely that a same-sex “marriage” bill would pass through either the state Assembly or Senate, where the Republicans hold a thin 32-30 margin.

Cuomo has even balked at presenting legislation to the Senate floor, having told The Associated Press that he does not want to bring up a bill that would fail. Underscoring the opposition,  Sen. Martin Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, introduced a bill this month that would void New York’s current recognition of same-sex “marriages” performed in other states.

“(Cuomo) is going to be very cautious about introducing a bill unless he has the votes. Fortunately, in the state Legislature, we have numerous state senators, including some Democrats, standing firm in defense of marriage,” Poust said.

Calls for comment from Empire State Pride and other homosexual-rights organizations were not returned by deadline.

Mayor Bloomberg

Poust said the bishops, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, have been active in working alongside members of the evangelical Christian and Orthodox Jewish communities in defending traditional marriage, while calling on state senators to oppose any efforts to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

But that has not been easy, given the millions of dollars that same-sex “marriage” supporters have spent in advertising and lobbying efforts, Poust said.

“There really is a full-court press on our part to hold back this aggressive movement by the ‘gay marriage’ lobby, which includes very well-funded Hollywood celebrities and a lot of wealthy individuals in and out of state,” Poust said. “It’s a lot for us to overcome, but we have prayer and God on our side.”

A prominent supporter for a same-sex “marriage” bill is Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York City. Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent who has been a major financial donor to the GOP Senate majority, recently visited several Republican senators who were seen to be on the fence over the issue. He promised to campaign for them in exchange for their support, adding that they did not want to be “on the wrong side of history.”

“There is a lot of money coming in from the other side from powerful people in politics and business,” said the Rev. Duane Motley, founder and senior lobbyist of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.

Motley said the homosexual lobby has spent upwards of $1 million on an advertising campaign to back Cuomo’s high-profile push for same-sex “marriage.”

“He’s pulled out all the stops. He wants New York to be the ‘Empire State of progressive government,’ and this is the first step,” said Motley, whose group has organized a statewide bus tour to rally the opposition against the proposed legalization.

Tourism and Talent

Though conservative lawmakers are under increasing pressure to support the governor’s agenda, they also risk alienating their own base of support. Many of them count on the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and caving in on same-sex “marriage” could harm them politically.

Long said the Conservative Party interviews political candidates seeking his organization’s endorsement about their views, including on the same-sex “marriage” issue, which they would lose if they vote in favor of Cuomo’s legislation.

In addition to framing it as a civil-rights issue, same-sex “marriage” supporters have increasingly argued that there is also an economic impact. The Empire State Pride Agenda , a homosexual-rights advocacy organization, and others have gained traction with the argument that legalizing same-sex “marriage” would generate $184 million in economic activity across the state in the first three years.

Top business executives also wrote a joint letter to the state Legislature endorsing same-sex “marriage” on the grounds that “attracting talent is key to our state’s economic future.” A recent New York Times article also noted that conservative Republican financiers have donated $1 million to a coalition of homosexual-rights activists .

That, combined with the threat of being portrayed as bigots or homophobes, is putting conservative lawmakers in a tough position, observers said, arguing that it portends trouble for anyone who opposes the measure.

“I think the impact statewide and nationally, if this were to pass, would be to sever the link between marriage and procreation, marriage and family, and it would, therefore, weaken marriage, more so than it has already been weakened in the last 40 years through divorce, single-parent families and out-of-wedlock births,” Poust said.

Long acknowledged that state lawmakers were “under intense pressure,” but added: “There are enough sound-minded Democrats and Republicans that will make sure this bill will not go anywhere.”

Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from New Bedford, Massachusetts.