Thursday, June 30, 2011
Today on his radio show, Glenn Beck tearfully recounted an incident from Bryant Park last night when he and his wife and daughter turned up to see a showing of the Hitchcock classic The 39 Steps. Apparently some fellow picnickers began harassing the Becks, even at one point "accidentally" kicking a glass of wine onto his wife's back. It sounded genuinely unpleasant and a little scary, though the famously paranoid Beck played up the dramatics in his retelling. "I swear to you I think, if I had suggested, and I almost did, 'Wow, does anybody have a rope? Because there's tree here. You could just lynch me.' And I think there would have been a couple in the crowd that would have," he said. He called Gawker, which ran some user-submitted photos of the Becks, "especially horrible." "They have done everything they can to stalk me and my family," he said. "They’ve put my family in jeopardy in their own home."
Then, for almost ten minutes, Beck went on an extended rant against New Yorkers and the type of twentysomethings that harassed him. "These people were some of the most hateful people I had ever seen," he said. "I was told a lot last night about how New York hates people like me."
"I really feel sorry for you," he continued. "Here you are, 25 years old, and you are so lost and so arrogant and so convinced that you are absolutely 100 percent right. And you are helping craft a system that is fueled by hate. You're being used, and you don't even know it. You're building a system fueled by the very things you say you hate: special interests, the rich, the powerful, global corporations — that’s who's pulling your string."
Update: A "hateful" 25-year-old writes in with her version of events.
To Whom It May Concern:
Just a quick FYI -saw your article on Mr. Beck and his numerous FALSE claims about the way that he was treated at Bryant Park last night. Myself and several of my friends were seated immediately behind Mr. Beck & co (have pictures) and I can tell you that while the crowd was certainly not *thrilled* that he had shown up, his family was left completely alone, and for the most part he was too. Conversely, it was his security detail (two body guards) that seemed to be unnecessarily prickly with the crowd, scolding myself and my friends for acrobatics and other harmless activities taking place well before the movie started, and contributing to a considerably less relaxed atmosphere than is typically experienced during BPMN (I've been going for about six years now).
It was my friend that spilled the glass of wine on Tanya -and I can assure you that it was a complete accident. A happy one, to be sure, but nonetheless a complete and utter accident. As soon as the wine spilled (and I question how Tanya became soaked from a half glass of wine) apologies were made and my friends pretty much scrambled to give Tanya & co napkins -no doubt aware that it would look terrible and that their actions could be perceived as purposeful. No words were exchanged after that, as I think that it became pretty clear to Beck & co that my friends and I were doing everything in our capacity to help clean the "mess".
I'm sure it's unnecessary to point out the hypocrisy in Glen's statements that we were being hateful. I can assure him that we don't need his sympathy. Incidentally, none of us have made a career of "spewing hate" on the radio, or any other media platform. We live our lives intolerant only of those who don't tolerate: We have chosen New York as our city for that very reason. We do things like go to Bryant Park Movie Night, and vote to legalize gay marriage. We don't taunt Glen, or his family. And we certainly don't waste our wine, even on Tanya.
Thanks, and please let me know if you have further questions.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Remember the gay couple who took in former mayor Rudy Giuliani after his previous marriage hit the skids? Giuliani is pretending he doesn't: First, he skipped the couple's 2009 Connecticut wedding, after RSVPing yes. Now, says car dealer Howard Koeppel, Giuliani has reneged on a promise to remarry Koeppel and Mark Hsiao in their home city of New York, where it's just become legal. Koeppel tells the Post that when he asked if the mayor would marry them years ago, the reply seemed, on balance, positive:
"He said, 'Howard, I don't ever do anything that's not legal. If it becomes legal in New York, you'll be one of the first ones I would marry.' "
Ten years later, Koeppel is distressed that his former house guest hasn't returned the many calls he began making before the legislation was passed last week.
"It seems like a lot of people he was close to become persona non grata," Koeppel observed.
The couple has been together since 1991, back when Giuliani was on wife No. 2, and this year became parents through surrogacy. The former mayor — despite generally moderate social positions, a longtime thumbs up to civil unions, and a certain reputation for not exactly treating heterosexual marriage as something uniquely sacred — has always opposed gay marriage. The issue has become much less of a wedge in recent elections, and young people especially, of all political affiliations, are completely unshocked at the notion of gay marriage; meanwhile, Giuliani has never been a favorite of social conservatives, but it's still hard not to read his duck-and-cover move as a nod in their direction. One consultant tells the Post that " [Presiding at the wedding] would be a sign he's no longer interested in running [as a Republican] for president — ever." But despite his seemingly annual feints at running for office again, it's unclear if there are large blocs of Republicans who are interested any longer in having Giuliani run for president — ever.
Danny Hakim reports: “One of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s top advisers met with the operators of the Indian Point nuclear plant last week and told them that the governor was determined to close the plant.”
Op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd interviews Gov. Cuomo and talks about his relationship with his father – and the Catholic Church.
Sharon Otterman profiles Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
"smoking lounge" in Oskaloosa, IA.
"END OVER POPULATION. SMOKE CIGARETTES."
The lounge, a storage closet located in the basement of Oskaloosa's American Legion Hall #3567, will protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of the second-hand smoke of the nation's approximately 65 million smokers.
"Smokers have infringed upon the rights of others for far too long," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), co-sponsor of the bill. "Now that this issue is finally settled, we can all 'breathe a little easier.'"
"I really need a smoke right now," said White Plains, NY, resident Peter MacAlester, 52, speeding westbound along Interstate 80 toward Oskaloosa. Biting his fingernails and wiping sweat from his forehead as he drove, he added, "I figure if I drive straight through and manage to stay awake, I can probably get there within the next 16 hours."
The legislation's passage ranks among the most significant moments in the battle against smoking in the U.S. These include the 1989 Supreme Court decision to limit smoking to the Midwest; Congress' 1993 restriction of smoking to Iowa only; the Iowa Supreme Court's 1995 statewide ban on smoking except in Oskaloosa; and the Oskaloosa City Council's 1997 declaration that, with the exception of the American Legion Hall, Oskaloosa would be designated a smoke-free city.
Smoking opponents throughout the Oskaloosa area are applauding the latest piece of legislation, which bans smoking in the American Legion Hall, except in the basement's storage closet.
"It's about time," Oskaloosa non-smoker Caryn Tapp said. "That building's tolerant 'all-areas' open-smoking policy encouraged the filthy habit. Not only that, but the building's proximity to the local Arby's helped promote tobacco use among Oskaloosa's 65 teens."
"My daughter lives in California, and she's refused to bring my newborn grandson to visit me because of that building's relaxed smoking code," said Harriet Mortimer, 63, who lives down the block from the American Legion Hall. "But now that it's been restricted to the basement storage closet, she's considering coming here."
Added Mortimer: "That closet doesn't have any windows, does it?"
As popular as the new legislation is among Oskaloosa-area non-smokers, it is every bit as unpopular among smokers across the U.S.
"Having to get to Iowa to grab a smoke on my lunch break every day was certainly inconvenient enough: Oskaloosa doesn't even have a 7-11, let alone an airport." said Boston marketing executive Daniel Freeburn, 38. "But now, on top of everything else, we have to deal with this? That lounge only has room for, at most, 40 or 50 people, and that's when they're packed in like sardines. With lines of up to 50 or 60 million people during noontime rush periods, I'm sometimes as much as six months late getting back to my desk."
Gnawing at the bruised, bloodied ball of his thumb, Freeburn added: "Fucking shit-ass Christ piss!" He then asked if anyone had any gum. Less than an hour later, he was reportedly arrested by Boston police for bashing his office supervisor's head against a desk.
Across the U.S., smokers have resorted to desperate measures in order to sidestep the latest government restrictions. Some have been caught hiding cigarettes inside asthma inhalers. Tempe, AZ, smoker Abel Greene was recently caught attempting to dig a 700-foot-deep hole in the ground in the crawlspace beneath his home. According to police officials, Greene was planning to use the pit to secretly smoke in private, far beneath the Earth's surface.
Despite the victory, anti-tobacco groups across the nation stress that the war against smoking is far from over.
"We still have a long way to go," said Francine Stotts, director of the Citizens Health Action Institute and a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco-based What About The Children? foundation. "It is true that, by restricting all smoking in the entire country to a cramped closet in a barely accessible rural hamlet surrounded by nothing but miles of flat farmland in every direction, we have helped reduce the non-smoker's risk of exposure to secondhand smoke. But we cannot stop there. We must continue to lobby for greater restrictions until smoking is only allowed beyond the orbit of the outermost gas giant Neptune."
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Santos & Hernandez notes: “New York’s $66 billion budget, which the City Council is set to approve on Tuesday, averted the laying off of thousands of teachers that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had said would be necessary. But the plan does not spare the schools from cuts. The schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, told principals on Monday that individual school budgets would decline by an average of 2.4 percent, forcing tough choices about what — or whom — they can do without. Parent coordinators at high schools could be let go, after-school programs could end and teaching positions could be purged, prompting schools to consolidate classes and eliminate elective courses. The city does not plan to replace an estimated 2,600 teachers who are expected to retire or resign this summer, so one result is inevitable: Class sizes will increase.”
“Gotham” columnist Michael Powell wonders: “The mayor plays a reasonable hand of political poker, but is the city the better for that this year? Was the threatened mayhem — the thousands of layoffs and firehouses closed — an attempt to reimagine the city in rough times, or just a sound-and-light show?”
Cara Buckley notes: “At this year’s meeting, held Monday evening at the Cooper Union’s Great Hall, the Rent Guidelines Board raised the maximum increases on rent-stabilized apartments to 3.75 percent for one-year leases and 7.25 percent for two-year leases. The increases go into effect in October.”
Michael Grybaum reports: “…The city is planning a new system of street signage intended to help pedestrians get from here to there with as little confusion as possible.”
Sam Dolnick looks at the aftermath of the gay marriage vote: “The news was celebrated over the weekend by gay immigrants just as it was by other gay groups. On Monday, after the dancing had slowed, many immigrants outside the gay community said that the victory carried a special resonance for them, as well, for they understood discrimination better than most. Their relationship with gay advocacy groups is complex, even as some see similarities in their struggles. And because it is a state law and not a federal one, some of the benefits being sought, like citizenship for same-sex spouses, will not be forthcoming, and that has somewhat muted their response.”
Monday, June 27, 2011
By Bob Hennelly
The national leadership is so caught up in their pursuit of power and re-election that they are entirely disconnected from the very real social and economic dislocation their corporatist and partisan politics have wrought.
In the immediate aftermath of the great collapse of 2008, the nation bailed out the banks, and promises were made about helping homeowners who were facing foreclosure. Those promises were not kept by either party, and the value of the real estate on Main Street America just continues its downward slide unabated.
Right now the only sign of adult bipartisan leadership and forward momentum is coming from the states, local officials and average citizens who sense the country's dire condition. They are putting their desire to serve the people over their party. And while you can disagree with the policy result, you have to respect that they are putting something at risk by acting out of their comfort zone to accomplish something greater than there own self-engradisement.
Leave it to the U.S. Conference of Mayors to try and send a wake up call to the self-absorbed beltway about the actual cost of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of the lost opportunity for re-building our fraying nation and its hurting cities.
In the Empire State, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic and Republican legislators govern a state short on cash but that did not stop them from trying to make it a more just and inclusive place by embracing marriage equality.
In Trenton, conservative Republican Governor Chris Christie spent months beating up on the Democrats who control the state legislature. But when it came down to the wire, he worked behind closed doors with Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver to fashion a compromise that both sides hope will save the state's public employee pension and health care benefits without bankrupting local governments.
Perhaps it's that at the state and municipal level there are no abstracting the results when there is a failure to lead. And so Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party, embraced Christie's call for trying to contain the ever-upward spiral of pension and health care costs.
Booker had to layoff 163 officers - 13 percent of his police force - because the costs of continuing to keep the fringe benefit costs current on the rest of the work force.
At an editorial meeting at WNYC, Booker said Christie's "pugilistic style" gave him pause.
"To me Chris Christie's plan is right. We need somehow to curb benefits and make them more rational," said Mayor Booker. "It is ridiculous to me that have a health care system with out public workers where there is no conception of cost on the part of provider, no conception of cost on the consumer, and what does that do in any environment it is going to drive up costs."
Booker said the state had "sacred cows" that it could no longer afford like the requirement that public employees receive the total value of unused sick days when they retired.
"These big buyouts that people get for unused sick days - they weren't sick," said Booker. "Why are we buying them out? Why do I have to pay to my police officers upwards of a quater of a million dollars for people walking out the door for unused sick time. You know what I could do with a quarter of a million dollars. Do you know how many summer jobs I could provide in my city for that kind of money?"
There are state and local labor leaders stepping up to the challenge of our national leadership crisis. New Jersey's Communications Workers of America, that represents New Jersey's state workers DID put forward a meaningful plan to try and cut health care costs but it did not get the media attention it merited.
There's no doubt New Jersey's failure to make its payment into the public pension funds for a generation set the stage for the current crisis. And CWA's Bob Master says public unions are being unfairly scapegoated as the nation continues to feel the fallout from Wall Streets ruinous and fraudulent speculation.
"What's happening in New jersey is part of a national even global effort to solve the crisis that has brought on by the financial meltdown at the expense of the living standards of middle class people. In this case they were public workers,"said Master.
In New York City it was the behind the scenes leadership of UFT President Michael Mulgrew that produced results for his members AND the children of New York. Mulgrew worked WITH the Bloomberg Administration even as he publicly blasted the Mayor for his plan to layoff 4,000 teachers. The teachers gave up their sabbaticals and shuttle diplomacy between City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and low key Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott staked out common ground.
But we have to keep asking the big questions about how it is that we find ourselves in this scarcity mode from Athens to Trenton. Yes there's a global debt crisis and the books must be balanced. But on whose back? These days U.S. multinational continue to hoard trillions off-shore waiting for the two-party bilking system to give them a tax holiday.
Friday night inside the Tweed Courthouse, Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and a who's who of New York City government were all in a self-congragulatory mood because they had reached a budget deal for this year that spared 4,000 teachers, but laid off a thousand city workers. Word of the landmark vote in Albany on marriage equality added to the celebratory mood.
But outside a hundred plus protestors banged on drums and cowbells to protest any layoffs and "givens" like the hike in college tuition for cash strapped students in the City University system. These were the denziens of Bloombergville who have put their lives on hold to camp out for several days around City Hall to try and make the connections between the growing push for cuts to education and vital public services even as the concentration of great wealth in America continues unabated.
So while Washington dithers there are plenty examples of leadership; conservative Republicans, Democrats, trade unionists and activists who are willing to put something at risk to get our mired nation unstuck.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Posted on Jun 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
video by Rafael Martínez Alequín
video by Rafael Martínez Alequín
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, June 26th 2011, 4:00 AM
"He got from me a gift because I didn't send him a bill. That's the way it is," architect Hugo Subotovsky told the Daily News.
This contradicts the statement Carrion made when The News first revealed the arrangement in March 2009. At the time, Carrion said he hadn't paid Subotovsky because the architect had yet to finish a "final survey."
At issue is whether the non-payment broke any laws. City officials can't take gifts from anyone they know "is or intends to become engaged in business dealings with the city."
Subotovsky gave Carrion his "gift" in 2006 and 2007, when Carrion was still Bronx borough president. President Obama later made Carrion his "urban czar."
While working on Carrion's home, Subotovsky had several building projects that needed the beep's approval.
Carrion would also be required to report outside income, and there's no mention on his financial disclosure forms of the work.
Carrion has since left the White House to run the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's northeast office.
Subotovsky's work on Carrion's home ended in early 2007, yet Carrion made no payments on it until more than two years later in April 2009 - days after The News revealed the arrangement.
In a recent interview, Subotovsky said Carrion had asked him to draft blueprints for a front porch redesign of a Victorian two-family home Carrion had bought on City Island.
Though he did not usually handle such small jobs, Subotovsky says he took the job anyway.
At the time, several of his big developments in the Bronx needed Carrion's backing.
Borough presidents can block projects by recommending that the planning commission reject them.
Carrion had approved some of Subotovsky's projects at the time the architect was working on his house. Other Subotovsky projects awaited Carrion's signature.
On Jan. 22, 2007, for instance, records show Subotovsky handled documents related to Carrion's house on the same day a housing development he was designing sent plans to Carrion for his approval.
Subotovsky last filed documents with the city regarding Carrion's home in February 2007. At one point, he said, Carrion's wife emailed him about the cost of the job.
Subotovsky said he did not send Carrion a bill, and neither Carrion nor his wife made further inquiries on payment.
That changed after The News story appeared. The White House told Carrion to pay the bill, and several days later, Carrion said he did.
Carrion left the White House for HUD in May 2010. He declined requests for comment.
Subotovsky said after The News story appeared, Carrion contacted him about a bill. Subotovsky said he sent an invoice for $4,200 and Carrion paid it.
After The News story in March 2009, both the Bronx District Attorney and the city Department of Investigation opened probes. Subotovsky said he was questioned by both.
Bronx DA spokesman Steven Reed said the review was closed because "no evidence of any wrongdoing on (Carrion's) part developed during the inquiry."
The DOI's inquiry remains open, sources familiar with the matter say.
Sunday, June 26th 2011, 4:00 AM
The historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage in New York is expected to bring up to an extra 1 million jubilant marchers to Sunday's Pride parade - and it may set off a national ripple effect.
The bill's passage late Friday sparked celebrations throughout the city that will reach their crescendo on Sunday afternoon as a record crowd shimmies its way down Fifth Ave. and into the West Village, rejoicing in their newfound rights.
"It's going to be truly historic," said Chris Frederick, director of Heritage of Pride, which organizes the march. "It's going to harken back to the first march back in 1970. I'd expect between 500,000 to a million more. What I foresee happening, people are going to come from all over the Northeast corridor. People are really revved up to show support for this bill passing.
"I think there's going to be so much joy in the air," he said. "It's going to be just really exciting."
The march, the conclusion of the city's annual Pride Week, could be the final part of a powerful message sent from the halls of Albany, which many activists feel could quickly spread throughout the land.
New York became the sixth state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage only after four Republican state senators defied their party and voted in favor of the marriage equality bill - which could serve as a blueprint for other states, Ellner said. "It's going to take a bipartisan coalition to get it done, whether it's most statehouses or Congress."
Gov. Cuomo, who received national accolades for steering the bill to victory, used his political popularity as a mandate and relentlessly lobbied Republican senators, leading to the eventual 33-29 margin.
Cuomo spoke candidly about how his own views changed - he formerly just supported civil unions, not gay marriage - and predicted that President Obama may follow suit.
"I think you are going to see an evolution toward this position on all levels," Cuomo said. "New York made a powerful statement, not just for the people of New York, but people all across this nation."
Obama enthusiastically addressed an LGBT conference in the city on Thursday but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage, saying it was an issue for state governments to decide. Some political observers have theorized the President will endorse the measure after the 2012 election.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Good Lord, how often is it the New York state legislature makes you proud?
The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 32-29 late Friday night to bring gay marriage to New York. The vote came after a long, messy week in which the Republicans fretted endlessly about whether Hasidic florists would be forced to provide flowers to gay weddings, but in the end, they came through and actually did something that was cutting edge and at least a little bit brave. Can't remember the last time that happened.
There was that time in 1970 -- I wasn't actually here, but I've been told -- that the lawmakers passed a groundbreaking abortion rights law. The bill seemed doomed to lose on a tie vote in the House until George Michaels, who represented a conservative upstate district, rose and announced, near tears, that he was voting yes. "I realize I am terminating my political career, but I cannot in good conscience sit here and allow my vote to be the one that defeats this bill," he said.
Michaels was right about his political career. It's not really likely anyone in the state Senate will have to make that kind of sacrifice. The public is way ahead of the pols on this one.
But maybe you could argue that the 2011 George Michaels was Senator Roy McDonald of Saratoga, a Republican who was the first to announce that he was changing his vote to "yes."
"Well, fuck it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing," he told reporters. It wasn't "Give me liberty or give me death," but it was very Albany.
Playing the part usually reserved for the Archbishop of New York was the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, who penned an opinion piece claiming that the legislature was behaving like the government of North Korea, a comparison that seemed to smack of a bit of desperation.
It's easy to overestimate the amount of political courage it required for former opponents to flip on this highly charged issue. (Queens Democrat Carl Kruger would have found it hard to maintain his anti-gay-marriage stance once it was revealed that he shares his own home with two male gynecologists and their mother.)
Wavering lawmakers were given polls showing that their constituents wanted the bill to pass. Even more important, wealthy Republican donors promised financial support for gay marriage backers.
But there's never going to be a danger that New Yorkers would overestimate the virtues of their state legislators. This is the rare, rare moment when we get to acknowledge that they actually have some. Good for them. And good for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for making this a top priority and figuring out how to push the gay marriage bill through.
It's a big, big deal. The country is ready to acknowledge the right of gay couples to marry. For young people, it's a no-brainer. For those of us who are older, a lifetime of experience has taught us that gay Americans are our friends, our neighbors, our relatives, and maybe our children. But change has been thwarted by the structure of our politics, which give disproportionate strength to tiny slivers of voters.
We needed some stalwart lawmakers to break the jam. Who would have imagined we'd find them in Albany?
BY Glenn Blain
DAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU
Saturday, June 25th 2011, 4:00 AM
His plan to allow livery cab drivers to accept street hails in the outer boroughs finally got approval from the Senate last night - a gift to residents still fuming over the city's botched response to the Dec. 26 blizzard.
The Assembly approved the proposal earlier in the week.
Starting in January, livery drivers can take street hails in the outer boroughs and in upper Manhattan - so long as they charge passengers the same 50-cent-per-ride MTA surcharge that yellow cab drivers charge.
"You had to make it a level playing field," said state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who sponsored the bill.
Bloomberg, who hurriedly introduced the measure last weekend, argued the measure would improve taxi service outside of Manhattan - and would provide up to $1 billion in new tax revenue for the city.
Hizzoner's team estimated the new deal would also generate millions for the cash-strapped MTA.
The legislation authorizes up to 30,000 permits for livery drivers to pick up street hails in parts of upper Manhattan and the other boroughs. The permits would cost $1,500.
The bill also allows the Taxi and Limousine Commission to sell up to 1,500 new yellow cab medallions.
Yellow cab drivers complained the measure would deprive them of business and dilute the value of their medallions.
"Today, the state Senate made a terrible mistake that, if not corrected, will upend the 100-year-old yellow taxicab industry," the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade said in a statement.
Golden held out hope those concerns could still be addressed before the law takes effect.
Bloomberg's proposal came after he was rebuked by state lawmakers this year on key issues of pension reform, state aid cuts and changing the last-in-first-out law governing teacher layoffs.
Friday, June 24, 2011
You did it! Today, New York State made history when the State Senate passed historic legislation that will allow lesbian and gay couples to marry in New York State.
This is a great victory for basic fairness and equality. New York will now become the largest state to allow lesbian and gay couples the right to marry!
Our elected officials - Democrats and Republicans alike - have stood on the right side of history by supporting fairness and equality for all New Yorkers. The State Assembly has repeatedly passed marriage legislation, and Governor Cuomo has made it a top priority.
This victory for families and human rights could not have happened without you! You've lobbied, made phone calls, written emails, and sent faxes. Please take one more moment now to find out how your elected official voted, and to say thank you if your senator voted to pass the marriage bill. Contact your state senator now and let them know that you appreciate their important stand!
And then go celebrate. In fact, join us on Sunday at NYC Pride. The NYCLU contingent will gather at noon at 38th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
While all New Yorkers should be proud today, we still have work to do - countless lesbian and gay people throughout the nation are still legally prohibited from protecting their families and marrying the person they love. And in New York, the NYCLU will continue its legal challenge to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a law that bars the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow the work goes on.
Thank you for all you do,
The Staff of the New York Civil Liberties Union
Senators passed the bill 33 to 29 as the normally somnolent chambers erupted in a raucous chant of "USA! USA!"
"As I have said many times, this is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate," said GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau).
"I'm verklempt," said a nervously optimistic Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-S.I), one of five openly gay state lawmakers prior to the vote. "I'm still in a state of disbelief."
The Assembly passed the bill last week for the fourth time since 2007.
It was only two years ago that gay marriage was easily defeated in the then Democrat-controlled Senate. Now, the rush to the altar could begin 30 days after Gov. Cuomo, who made gay marriage a priority, signs the bill.
For gay couples, marriage means more than just swapping rings.
For the first time they qualify for the same 1,324 state marriage benefits afforded to straight couples.
Same-sex couples are not eligible for federal marriage benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Advocates on both sides of the issue have for days lined the hallways around the Senate praying, chanting and singing.
"This is one of the basic steps toward being considered first-class citizens," said Erik Ross, 30, a gay student from Albany.
Opponents vowed political retribution for GOP senators who voted in favor of the bill.
Going into last night's vote, 31 senators, including two Republicans, were supporting the gay marriage bill - one shy of the 32 needed for passage.
All eyes were on a small group of undecided senators, particularly Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie), whose wife - who is viewed as sympathetic to the cause - came to the Capitol, giving supporters hope.
Republicans agonized over the vote for weeks. Some opposed it on religious or moral grounds while others feared promised Conservative Party backlash could cost the GOP its already razor-thin majority next year.
Divided Republican senators discussed whether to bring the controversial bill to the floor for six hours behind closed doors yesterday, Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) said.
In the end, many felt it better to clear the contentious issue off the table before next year's elections.
The decision also came after Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed on language to ensure that religious groups cannot be sued if they refuse to cater to gay couples.
It would also block the state from penalizing, discriminating against or denying benefits to religious groups. They would not be stripped of their tax-exempt status or their property tax breaks.
Even with the protections, the state's Catholic bishops, led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan vehemently opposed passage of a gay marriage bill, calling it "bad for society."
"Marriage has always been, is now, and always will be the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, life-giving union," the bishops said in a statement. "Government does not have the authority to change this most basic of truths."
Passage of gay marriage was a huge political victory for Cuomo.
The freshman governor traveled the state trying to rally support.
He brought the major gay lobby groups together into a unified coalition - and coordinated their efforts.
And the Democrat repeatedly met with reticent GOP senators trying to allay their fears and worked personally with them on the religious exemption language.