Despite raking in big time campaign contributions from LGBT people across the U.S., Democrats in the New York State Senate may be backing away from their pledge to bring a marriage bill to a vote.
After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.
But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.
New York is one the states best positioned to legislatively achieve marriage equality. A marriage bill passed the state Assembly in the last legislative session. Each of the legislators who voted for that bill and ran for re-election retained his/her seat. Democrats now also control 32 of the 62 Senate seats.
Despite promises to bring a marriage bill to a vote in the Senate, some Democrats are now saying that it would be better to wait until after the 2010 elections in which pro-LGBT Gov. David Patterson will be running for election to a full term as governor. In addition, a number of Senate Democrats will be up for re-election.
While there may be some logic to that position, one can't help but wonder if this just a continuation of what LGBT people often hear from Democrats after we give them our money and votes: Thanks for your contributions and votes, now is just not the right time to pass pro-LGBT legislation.
The state is also facing a mounting budget crisis that everyone agrees it is critical to solve. But, as gay Assemblymember Daniel J. O'Donnell says, "Since when are fixing the economy and civil rights mutually exclusive?"
We have been told again and again that our quest for basic civil rights has to wait, that there are more important things that must be dealt with and that we need to wait for a more politically favorable time.
The reality is that there will always be multiple issues that will vie for the attention of our elected officials. And, if we were to wait for a perfect time to pass the legislative protections that our community so desperately needs, we will be waiting forever.
Elected officials who as candidates courted us for our money and our votes should know that our patience is running thin.