New York Senate Does the Right Thing


The New York Times reports that lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed.

The bill was approved on a 33-to-29 vote as 4 Republican state senators joined 29 Democrats in voting for it: James S. Alesi; Stephen M. Saland; Roy J. McDonald; and Mark J. Grisanti.

After days of agonized discussion capped by a marathon nine-hour closed-door debate on Friday, Republicans came to a decision: the full Senate would be allowed to vote on the bill, the majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, said Friday afternoon, and each member would be left to vote according to his or her conscience.

“The days of just bottling up things, and using these as excuses not to have votes — as far as I’m concerned as leader, its over with,” Mr. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said.

Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who opposed gay marriage when he ran for election last year, said he had studied the issue, agonized over his responsibility as a lawmaker, and concluded he could not vote against the bill. Mr. Grisanti voted yes.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” he said. “I cannot deny, a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is, the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Earlier, Republican state senator Roy McDonald, who reversed his previous opposition to marriage equality despite threats from conservative groups that he’d pay for his actions at the ballot box, told reporters:

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing.”

“You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.

“I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”

According to the Washington Post, the bill’s passage was a milestone nationally because it was the first time a GOP-controlled chamber has approved same-sex marriage.

Andrew Sullivan writes that New York granting same-sex marriage rights is important not just because a Republican-led State Senate passed the law, but because it insists on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality, and because it doubles the number of Americans with the right to marry the person they love, even if they are gay.

My take is that those involved acted with integrity, dignity, decency, and placed individual conscience above partisan politics–a hopeful sign for America’s future.

40 responses to “New York Senate Does the Right Thing

  1. It’s a very good day!


  2. I am sure Florida will follow…in 2111.


  3. don’t hold your breath Ed


  4. Pingback: New York Senate Does the Right Thing (via Whatever Works) « Beneath the Tin Foil Hat

  5. Proud of my hometown. Proud of Gov. Cuomo who acted as a governor and not a cowering Catholic.

    Wish my gay friends could get married. I have this dress that’s just dying to be worn.


  6. I’ll need to read the full text of the bill so as to see if all the proper exemptions – including not providing spousal benefits – are in place for religious bodies before I can really have an opinion on this.

    At first glance though, it sounds like a good thing and a model for correct forms of this sort of legislation.


    • jopnolan: the bill “also insists on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality”. But how could you favor the outcome expanding civil rights and deny spousal benefits. That’s been one of the motivating factors in the push for marriage equality.


      • Moe, I suspect jonolan means religious organizations should not have to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of employees if the organization’s religion is anti-gay; a troubling concept, and one reason I stopped donating to the Salvation Army.

        Otherwise, he’s correct: the full text of the bill needs to be read, the devil being more often than not in the details.


      • What ojmo has speculated is exactly the case.

        It would be an direct infringement upon religious liberties to force religious institutions to provide such benefits and “maximal religious liberty” is a meaningless set of words, with whatever meaning the speaker and listener choose to apply to them.

        I see no point in expanding one groups privileges at the expense of another’s rights.


        • Basically, maximal religious liberty means the state affirms that a religious institution will not be required to marry same-sex couples if it does not want to.

          The principle is troubling because it’s really just arguing that religious rights trump other rights, that if one’s religion is discriminatory or prejudiced, then anti-discrimination laws don’t apply.

          For example, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Christian landlords can refuse to rent to unmarried couples if it violates their “scruples”.


          • The 9th Circuit? Really? Isn’t that the famous ‘most liberal’ appeals court?

            I know and agree with what you’re saying ojmo. Philosophically the rule gives way too much permission to religions to ignore the law of the land. Of course progress is incremental . . .


            • Yeah, it’s really a call on which rights will prevail when there’s a situation with conflicting rights.

              I ran across a template for a generic “proposed religious exemptions to equal marriage statutes” law.

              It relates specifically to same-sex marriage, but you can see how broad it is: “employment discrimination, housing, public accommodations, licensing, government contracts or grants, or tax exempt status”. Taken all together, it’s quite a chunk of everyday life that would be subject to arbitrary lawful discrimination based on somebody else’s religious beliefs. I wonder where we’d be today if there was a law like this in the mid-60s, but instead of “marriage” it read “skin color”.

              “No individual…Shall be liable, penalized, or denied benefits under the laws of this state or any subdivision … Including but not limited to laws regarding employment discrimination, housing, public accommodations, licensing, government contracts or grants, or tax exempt status, for refusing to provide services … Related to the solemnization of any marriage … Or for refusing to treat as valid any marriage, where such providing … Or treating as valid would cause such individuals … To violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.”


          • How is this a problem? You can’t compel people to rent to anyone who wants to rent from them.

            Your case doesn’t even fall under anti-discrimination laws because “shacked up” couples aren’t a protected minority given special legal privileges.


            • The case was in Alaska. According to, “Alaska and Anchorage both have laws intended to prevent discrimination in rental housing and both of those laws bar discrimination based on marital status.”

              PS: Sorry to have returned so late to the party; looks like I missed a lot of fun 🙂


          • Fortunately then, Alaska’s laws were overruled by the courts.


          • So I can take that to mean that any such organization can legally deny insurance benefits to a same sex spouse?


          • What bigotry? Extra-marital cohabitation is a behavior choice, not an intrinsic, unchoosable thing such a Race or Ethnicity, nor is it something as basic as religion.


            • Sex is as basic as religion, and discrimination based on consensual sexual behavior is as good an example of bigotry as any I can think of.


  7. So if a religious group is against inter-racial marriage you’re ok with them withholding benefits to an inter-racial married couple?


  8. Folks the Governor of Empire State is running for President in 2016…..
    Please don’t forget this ………
    He’ll need your vote a few years from now….
    He’ll have to deal with the church when he marries his live in girl friend…..

    The Bill is the right thing to do….
    I’m proud of that…..
    Kudo’s to the GOPer’s with balls…..


  9. There is no constitutional right to discriminate, but I’m not surprised you think there is.


  10. Do you think if a church is opposed to Social Security they should have the right to opt out? I’m curious as what your line in the sand is regarding so called “religious rights”.


    • If you manage to come up an argument / question that isn’t quite such a pathetic straw man, I might answer. I’m not holding my breath though; your sort isn’t well-known for real arguments.


      • Back to Brian’s original question then – how about interracial marriage? Is that a strawman? Can a religious organization enjoying tax exempt status from the government cavalierly ignore the law?


        • I would say that yes, they can – or, more accurately they should be able to so long as it doesn’t involve directly violating the constitutional rights of others.

          The caveat to that would be that the religious body in question must show that their canon actually forbids such things.

          Please try to remember, Moe, that nothing you get from your employer by way of compensation is a right. They’re all privileges you’ve earned with your work, just as your work is a privilege the company earns by providing compensation.


  11. Now now try to keep it civil, you don’t want people to think you’re just another wacko right wing, bigoted, tea bagger.


  12. Well I’m off to work, don’t worry jonolan, I’m sure there are many people around who will help you make a fool of yourself, not like it takes much effort.


  13. Finally got my hands on the bill. It doesn’t include all the exemptions – specifically the one about recognition through benefits – that I would want, but it includes good, solid protections from the more common problems as shown by recent case law.

    It was also, thankfully, written as an inseverable law. Those exemptions cannot be challenged without challenging the whole of the law.

    Am I pleased? No. Am I angered? No. This bit of sausage making is not near as bad as it could have been and not too far off the mark by way of balance.


  14. I loved the exchange between Jonolan and Brian . Why doesn’t Brian ask , if your Church believes in murder , does it have the right to opt out ? All of the hypotheticals are quite useless.

    ” Now now try to keep it civil, you don’t want people to think you’re just another wacko right wing, bigoted, tea bagger. ”

    More civility and calm from the left . As was said to me , ” why is everything so partisan with you ? ” Or do as I say, not as I do .


    • So Alan, exactly how should Brian have reacted to this from jonolan?

      “You, a domestic enemy of America, don;t have any understanding of the constitution. Don’t profane it by speaking of it. You never earned the privilege to do so.”


  15. Well, I would say jonolan’s “your” guy, Alan, but I’m not sure that’s true–I’m not even sure he’s from this planet!


  16. A private church should not be obligated to marry anyone it doesn’t want to. For example, there are many Jewish synagogues that refuse to marry a Jewish member who has decided to marry a non-Jew.

    Same for Catholics.

    Same for Lutherans who don’t take the requisite silly 4 week course on marriage.

    If you wanna belong to a group that doesn’t think it’s right for a brown eyed gal to marry a greed eyed dude, then don’t join. Go down to the local judge and get married.

    Or, join a church that doesn’t care about the color of your eyes.

    Or, go online here:

    And become an ordained minister yourself and marry your bi-colored eye friends.


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