The New York State Senate failed to hear the call for gay marriage last week despite a wave of support from the Brooklyn delegation and an impassioned speech from one usually soft-spoken borough legislator.
During Wednesday’s vote, the Senate shot down the Marriage Equity Bill 38 to 24.
Vote tallies show that seven of the nine Senators who represent the borough voted in favor of gay marriage. The two holdouts included Bay Ridge State Senator Marty Golden, a Republican, and State Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brighton Beach, Mill Basin).
The outcome of the Marriage Equality Bill vote disappointed many legislators, including freshman Brooklyn Heights State Senator Daniel Squadron.
“I have never seen such powerful and personal arguments on the Senate floor followed by such a disappointing vote,” said Squadron, a longtime supporter of gay marriage. “Today was hard, but we are going to get marriage equality passed in this state.”
When called to vote, State Senator Kevin Parker (D-Flatbush) said that approving gay marriage was “the right thing to do.”
“We should do it now,” he said. “I proudly vote aye.”
State Senator Eric Adams (D-Fort Greene) said that he hoped the vote will bring New York State “out of the closet.”
“[I hope everyone] understands that all Americans deserve the right to marry and love...this is about love,” he said before casting his vote.
But probably the most memorable speech for gay marriage came from State Senator Diane Savino, who represents parts of Bensonhurst and all of traditionally conservative Staten Island.
When asked to vote, Savino retorted against fears that a vote for gay nuptials would degrade the institution of marriage. To prove her point, she kept her fellow senators enthralled with a story about how she and a passing pedicab driver who stopped her in the street to tell her that he was against gay marriage talked about tying the knot.
“I asked him, ‘We just met. But do you know we could apply for a marriage license right now and no one would ask about the quality of our relationship.’”
“Yeah,” the man said.
“Do you think we’re ready for that kind of commitment?” she asked him.
“I see your point,” he said.
“Our role in government is not to determine the quality and validity of people’s relationships,” she said. “If we did, then we wouldn’t issue three quarters of the marriage certificates that we do.”
The real affront to the institution of marriage are all the television shows about one’s “happy day,” she said.
“Turn on the television. We have a wedding channel on cable TV devoted to the behavior of people on the way to the altar,” she said. “They spend billions of dollars, behave in the most appalling way, all in an effort to be princess for a day. You don’t have cable television? Put on network TV. We’re giving away husbands on a game show. You can watch The Bachelor, where thirty desperate women will compete to marry a 40-year-old man who has never been able to maintain a decent relationship in his life.”
Savino’s speech made her a hero among members of the borough’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community. At least one website, jezebel.com, called on Savino to run for president in 2016.
But no LGBT groups were singing Kruger’s praises. In fact, some were seen booing and hissing at him as he left the chamber.
Kruger said that while he personally supports extending marriage rights and privileges to any couple “who share a common roof,” he had to listen to his constituents.
“The district I represent is very conservative, religious and very traditional,” he said. “I must have gotten thousands of letters and emails urging me to vote against it. There is a resounding sentiment [against gay marriage] in the district.”
“I believe one of the responsibilities of government legislators is to put their personal feelings aside and do what their constituency wants to the best of their ability. While there is always going to be a faction that is not going to agree, I dare anyone to take a walk around the district and see what my constituents want. Their view is going to be congruent with the way I voted.”
Although senators knew that they didn’t have the 32 votes to carry the bill, they remained hopeful for a last-minute change of heart from Senate Republicans, Squadron explained.
“We just have to regroup and keep pushing until we get the 32 votes needed to support the bill,” he said.
The Assembly voted in favor of the Marriage Equality bill three times. This was the first time the bill was called for a vote in the state senate, which was under Republican control until this year.
Yet despite Tuesday’s outcome, LGBT advocates took pride in the fact that a debate on gay marriage was finally held on the Senate floor.
“In general we’re happy that a debate took place in a public forum and that people stood and were counted,” said Mary Cooley, co-president of the Lambda Independent Democrats, the borough’s leading LGBT political club. “It’s made us more focused.”