Statement on the Senate’s Rejection of Marriage Equality for New Yorkers

December 3, 2009

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh released the following statement:

I want to express my profound disappointment that the Senate has rejected a bill that would end New York State’s discrimination against gay and lesbian New Yorkers in the issuance of civil marriage licenses and bring us closer to the American ideal of equality before the law.

I am proud to be among the bill’s prime sponsors and to have joined my colleagues in the Assembly in approving it three times now – first in June 2007 and most recently in the early hours of the morning of December 2nd, when we met to approve it once again so that the Senate would have the opportunity to vote later the same day.

The bill would grant the same legal rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples that heterosexual couples currently enjoy, including legal protections of basic rights related to property ownership, inheritance, health care, hospital visitation, taxation, insurance coverage, child custody, pension benefits, and testimonial privileges. The bill would not require any member of the clergy to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

While the result in the Senate is a major setback for all of us who are committed to justice – particularly for those New Yorkers whose basic civil rights thirty-eight Senators have chosen to reject – we will continue the fight until we succeed in securing equality for all.

Many have noted that the very fact that this bill has now come to the floor for a vote in each house of the legislature represents a departure from the secretive ways of Albany and a step forward for the democratic process. As someone who has pushed for greater openness and accountability in our State government, I would make two observations on this point.

First, it is indeed good for democracy that New Yorkers will not have to speculate about each legislator’s position on this fundamental issue when they choose whom to support and whom to work against.

On the other hand, it is noteworthy that the “debate” in the Senate, when it finally occurred, was not really a debate at all. Many Senators spoke eloquently about their reasons for supporting equality, but only one Senator, and not one of the thirty Minority members, said a word about why they opposed it. In addition to taking stock of the final vote, New Yorkers should consider what it means when opponents of such a momentous proposal do not feel any need to articulate the reasons for their position or to confront the compelling arguments put forth by the bill’s proponents.