Thursday, December 3, 2009

New York Says No, New Jersey Says Probably Not, And Rick Warren SHOULD Have Said No

One more state has joined the growing list of states that will not permit same sex marriage: New York. Yes, New York which has the largest population of LGB people in the country in NY City. This headline says it all: New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill.

I admit, this one really shocked me, even more than Maine. What else surprised me was that it wasn't even that close a vote:
The State Senate defeated a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex marriage, after an emotional debate that touched on civil rights, family and history. The vote means that the bill, pushed by Gov. David A. Paterson, is effectively dead for the year and dashes the optimism of gay rights advocates, who have had setbacks recently in several key states.

The bill was defeated by a decisive margin of 38 to 24. The Democrats, who have a bare, one-seat majority, did not have enough votes to pass the bill without some Republican support, but not a single Republican senator voted for the measure. Still, several key Democrats who were considered swing votes also opposed the bill.

Mr. Paterson made an unusual trip to the Senate floor minutes after the last vote was cast, saying, “These victories come and so do the losses, but you keep on trying.”

True, there are wins and losses, and yes, we just have to keep on trying. But there are some agencies against which we are fighting that will be difficult to overcome:
The state’s Roman Catholic bishops, who had actively lobbied against the bill, said they were pleased by the vote.

“While the Catholic Church rejects unjust discrimination against homosexual men and women, there is no question that marriage by its nature is the union of one man and one woman,” Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in a statement. “Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable. However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”

Not quite sure how I can read that as anything other than being unjust, but that's just me Still, this was not the overriding factor:
In the end, it was not an issue that broke down along racial lines, or even religious and agnostic divisions. In fact, nine of the Senate’s 11 black members voted in support of same-sex marriage.

“When I walk through these doors, my Bible stays out,” said Senator Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat who compared the law preventing same-sex marriage with laws that kept blacks and whites from marrying. “I believe there are certain moments here where we can benchmark our lives by the votes we took.”

The debate was as personal as any to take place in the Senate chamber in years. Senators spoke of their experiences as Jews and Baptists, as blacks and women. They spoke of spending long nights contemplating their votes and the deceased gay friends and relatives who inspired their decision.

Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, spoke publicly for the first time about her gay brother, who was shunned by her family and moved to France.

“He had disappeared from our lives. And my father worried, but he could not ask him to come home,” she said, fighting back tears. Ms. Hassell-Thompson said she searched for her brother and eventually found him and asked him to come home. But he told her he was hesitant because he felt his family did not want to see him. “I said, ‘But your sister does.’ ”

Hold on, I need a moment...

Okay. Unfortunately, not everyone felt similarly:

State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr.
of the Bronx made an impassioned argument against same-sex marriage, describing his continued opposition as reflecting the broad consensus that marriage should be limited to a union between a man and woman. “Not only the evangelicals, not only the Jews, not only the Muslims, not only the Catholics, but also the people oppose it,” he said.

Senate Republicans had said before the vote that they believed their members could provide a few votes for the bill.

“There may be a few, that’s very possible,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous of Binghamton, the deputy Republican leader. “Everybody’s feeling is get it on the floor and let’s vote it up or down. It’s been talked about enough. Let’s get it done. I think it’s going to be very close.”

Ms. Krueger said before the debate began that she was optimistic the bill would pass, but added, “It depends on whether Republican votes are delivered.”

But, as it turned out, not close at all.

New York has now joined a growing club:
Had the legislation passed, New York would have become the sixth state where marriage between same-sex couples is legal or will soon be permitted. But now that it has failed, New York becomes the latest state where gay rights advocates have made considerable progress only to see their hopes dashed.

Last month Maine became the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a referendum. The Maine State Legislature had voted to legalize same-sex unions earlier this year, but opponents of gay rights gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Last year, California voters repealed same-sex marriage after the State Supreme Court said that gay couples had the right to marry.

Unlike in Maine, however, New York does not have a referendum process that allows voters to overturn an act of the Legislature.

The State Assembly had already approved the legislation, and Gov. David A. Paterson had said he would immediately sign the bill if it made it to his desk.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, the Assembly voted 88 to 51 to allow same-sex marriage. Though the Assembly has already passed the bill twice, a quirk in New York’s legislative code required the Assembly to pass the bill again before the governor can sign it.

As the vote approached advocates on both sides of the debate were pushing ahead with a last-minute effort to shore up support.

“We’re working it as hard as we can,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side and who supports same-sex marriage. “It feels very good right now. It feels like its going to happen. But this is an issue where some people don’t want to declare themselves until the last minute. And I think, believe it or not, I think there are one or two people who are really still torn.”

Demonstrators on both sides of the issue were relatively scarce in the Capitol on Wednesday. A small group of Orthodox Jews gathered outside the Senate chamber, one of them holding a sign that read “Gay Union/A Rebellion Against the Almighty.”

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Monsey, N.Y., said he traveled to Albany to remind the Senate “that the world belongs to the Almighty, and they have to reckon with his rules and his law.”

As John L. Sampson, the Senate Democratic leader, walked into his office on Wednesday morning, he flashed a thumbs-up to same-sex marriage supporters standing a few feet from the protesters. But Mr. Sampson acknowledged he did not know how the vote would turn out.

“I’ve got my work cut out for me,” he said.

So do a lot of us, apparently.

And it doesn't stop there: A Surprisingly Dark Day For Gay Rights In New Jersey. Just next door to New York, the LGB community is engaged in a battle that they may not have expected:
Support for gay marriage in Trenton is draining away like water from a tub as nervous legislators scurry towards safer political ground.

"I can’t say I’m confident now," says Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a lead sponsor. "I think we still have a pretty good chance. But people are getting nervous and weak-kneed."

Bad as that sounds, know that Weinberg is spinning this as best she can. Several other senators, supporters and opponents, say the movement is all but dead.

"They’ve lost the momentum," says Sen. Kip Bateman, a Somerset Republican who considered supporting the measure until last week. "I don’t think it’s going to happen."

So mark this as a black day for the cause of gay rights in New Jersey. Marriage equality was supposed to be the big prize, the final measure of respect, a sign that gay families were indeed equal under the law.

Instead, gay couples and their children are getting another ugly reminder that their families are regarded as second-class, as something less than the families next door.

Gay activists are bitter about what they see as betrayal. Democrats, especially Gov. Jon Corzine, told them over and over to wait for this moment.

And now they are getting tepid support, or none at all.

"Many of us in the progressive movement just want to throw up," says Steve Goldstein of Garden State Equality, the state’s leading gay rights group. "Democrats put out one hand out to ask for money, and with the other they stab you in the back." (Emphasis mine.)

This is a refrain that is becoming more and more common from the LBG community. Many within the community are waking up to the realization, one shared by many women, that the DNC could care less about them, simply paying lip service and nothing more. Obama picking a homophobic, anti-choice chair for the DNC pretty much says it all.

Back to Trenton:
So what changed in the last month? Why did supporters get so nervous?

For one, Corzine’s big loss has Democrats rattled. Republican Chris Christie united his party, and did well in Democratic strongholds like Middlesex County. He didn’t emphasize the gay marriage issue, but when asked, he promised a veto.

Democrats were rattled again when voters in Maine rejected gay marriage in a referendum, the 31st state to do so.

Perhaps most important, the Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey threw its muscle into the fight. Bishops and priests spoke against it from the pulpit, and more than 150,000 parishioners signed petitions in opposition.

Several legislators said they were impressed by that show of strength, given that Catholics make up more than 40 percent of the state’s population.

"Any time you see that kind of passion, you have to pay attention," said Sen. Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Monmouth County. "You’re elected to be the voice of the people who voted for you."

Finally, there were discouraging noises from Sen. Steve Sweeney, a South Jersey Democrat who will take over as Senate president in January, replacing Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex).

Sweeney suggested that the legislature should leave this issue aside for now, and focus instead on the economic crisis. It was pure political nonsense, because the legislature is not even considering major economic bills.

But the signal was sent.

Indeed, and it is one that seems to be appearing all too often these days. And the result is all too predictable:
So the senators began to peel off. Codey found himself counting heads to reach 21, the magic number to win passage. He couldn’t get it from Democrats, so he reached out to Republicans.

"Codey called me," Bateman says. "I’m told they (Democrats) have 14 or 15 votes on this. I told him they have one or two (Republicans) at most."

At tense moments like this, most politicians behave like herd animals. They are careful not to stray far from the pack. And if one of them gets rattled, everyone runs.

What we have on our hands today in Trenton is a bunch of scared herd animals. And it’s not a pretty thing to watch.

Only 2 percent of voters said this is the most important issue to them. And these skittish Democrats are almost all in gerrymandered districts that were drawn to ensure they win by large margins.

Ask senators privately what would happen if they all voted their consciences, and you get the same answer over and over: It would pass with votes to spare.

But our leaders, these puny men and women, are too scared to stand up and be counted.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could drum up a voter backlash against that?

Oh, I think a backlash is coming on a bigger scale, but for now, the message is all too clear: Members of the LGB community are not equal.

And then there is someone who SHOULD have said no, and that would be noted Homophobe, Pastor Rick Warren, he of Obama's Inauguration fame. Pastor Warren is getting notice for what he would NOT do:
Rick Warren Refuses To Condemn Proposed Ugandan Law Executing Gay People

That would be President Obama's friend Rick Warren. Rick Warren who says he even ate dinner with a gay couple once. Rick Warren who says he doesn't hate gay people. Funny, then, that Rick Warren refused to condemn Uganda's proposed legislation to executive people for being gay and HIV positive. From Newsweek via Box Turtle:

But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.” On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: “As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides.” Warren did say he believed that abortion was “a holocaust.” He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

Oh, I'd go one further. Rick Warren has taken sides before. He did it with Prop 8. On the side of the haters. But now he won't do it when they're talking about executing gay people? Why, because it's a foreign country and Rick doesn't get involved in foreign politics, only our own? Yes, I remember well when Jesus told us all to be good Christians only in our own backyard.

I don't remember that passage and I have read the Christian Scriptures a number of times. Oh, wait - that's because it isn't in there. And, I don't remember Obama speaking out about that practice, either. Birds of a feather he and Warren.

It's hard to even know what to say at this point. It really is. It is just hard to live in a country in which so many people are willing to discriminate against you. I totally understand why the brother of the NY State senator moved to France. I, too, hope to end up living somewhere in which people see me as fully human, and where my almost 14 yr relationship is deemed as worthy under the law as other of my fellow citizens. A place in which I am not just treated as equal, but seen as equal. Heaven knows, that would be some change I could believe in...


SFIndie said...

This is just disgraceful, Rev. Disgraceful and incomprehensible.

So, the Catholic Church rejects unjust discrimination? I guess they figure denying a segment of the human race the right to marry the person they love is not unjust.

And the orthodox rabbi who said “that the world belongs to the Almighty, and they have to reckon with his rules and his law.” Don't know who HIS Almighty is, but MY Almighty rejoices at love, and she could care less WHAT gender they are!

I can't wait to get out of this country and find a place where everyone is accepted for who they are, not for their age, their skin color, their gender, their religion, or who they love.

My heart breaks for all my friends and family who still are not granted equal rights under the law.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, SF -

It makes me insane when people use religion, whichever religion it is, to justify their prejudices, especially when they try to claim they are NOT being unjust. Oh, the hoops they will jump through to try and make that conclusion follow.

I was sure surprised by NY, as much as I was by CA. Sigh. Such a long way to go.

I know we've had this conversation before, but seriously, we are looking at places to which we can move once my partner is able to retire in which we have all the same benefits as everyone else, not state by state, or district by district, but the ENTIRE country. What a concept, eh? (I understand Tahiti is another great place to live, btw, though they have high taxes. Still, people are accepting, and welcoming - no small thing.)

Maybe we just need to buy our own island?

SFIndie said...

I like the idea of buying an island! I'll try to save my pennies and buy a little corner...someplace like Tahiti sounds heavenly.

Yeah, California really surprised me. It's not as liberal and progressive as everyone thinks. Like San Francisco, it's all an illusion!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

:-D I'm telling you, when you look at real estate down in the Caribbean, there are entire islands you can buy!

Maybe we can get Mary Ellen to go in with us. Teehee!