Friday, April 27, 2007

New York Governor Introduces Marriage Bill

Governor Eliot Spitzer kept his promise to LGBT advocacy organizations today and introduced a marriage equality bill in Albany. Spitzer, who took office in January, became the first governor in the country to introduce such legislation.

"Today is a watershed moment in our community's struggle to win the freedom to marry in New York and have our relationships treated the same as any other relationship under the law," Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle said in a statement. "We are extremely proud to have a Governor who understands that all New York families need access to the protections and responsibilities that the state provides through marriage."

This bill is a monumental move many activists and same-sex couples in New York State will continue to praise over the coming days and weeks. ESPA will certainly have a lot to celebrate next week as it brings hundreds of LGBT New Yorkers to Albany for its annual lobbying day but it, and other groups, have a responsibility to manage expectations based on current political realities.

Spitzer has certainly proven himself a strong ally for LGBT New Yorkers in their quest for equality. But the New York State Senate, controlled by Republican Joseph Bruno, poses a very significant challenge to the success of this bill as an April 24 editorial in the New York Times correctly pointed out. The senate Majority Leader has repeatedly expressed his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples. His counterpart in the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver [D-Manhattan], has yet to publicly take a position on the bill. This political reality underscores the uphill battle activists face as they work with the governor to advance the bill. They will continue to polish their messages, talking points and sound bites to convince New Yorkers across the state that marriage equality is an important issue. But these groups also need to clearly articulate to their constituencies the significant hurdles that lay ahead.

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