Sen. Martins Courts LGBT Vote
From today’s Morning Memo:
A bill that would ban the controversial practice of gay conversion therapy by licensed mental health therapists in New York has picked up its first GOP co-sponsor.
Long Island Sen. Jack Martins signed onto the bill yesterday after being lobbied by Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman, who is carrying the legislation, and Empire State Pride Agenda officials, who have made this measure one of their top end-of-session priorities.
“Sexual orientation is not a disease or mental illness and can’t be treated as one,” Martins said in a statement to CapTon.
“Using conversion therapy as ‘treatment’ on children is about as effective as using leeches and lobotomies,” the senator continued.
“It has no place in today’s society. Protecting children is not a partisan issue, and I will always work across the aisle to do that.”
The lobbying strategy for this bill has employed constituents in lawmakers’ districts who have personal – and often rather harrowing – experiences with gay conversion therapy.
In Martins’ case, according to ESPA Executive Director Nathan Schaefer, a mother-and-son duo made a special trip to Albany to share their personal story with the senator, and apparently made an impact.
The gay conversion bill is moving swiftly at the Capitol, especially considering the fact that it was just introduced this year.
It has already passed the Assembly, and according to Schaefer, it has sufficient votes to move through the Senate, too – if only GOP Leader Dean Skelos will allow it to come to the floor.
Twenty-two senators – including Martins and Hoylman – have signed onto the bill. ESPA is also hoping for “yes” votes from three other Republicans – Sens. Phil Boyle and John Flanagan, also of Long Island; and Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island.
Just this week, ESPA managed to get Democratic Sen. Ted O’Brien, of Rochester – one of the more conservative members of the minority conference, and a top GOP target this fall – to sign onto the bill. Two IDC members – David Carlucci and Tony Avella – are also co-sponsors.
Considering the opposition from the right to this legislation, including New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, it seems unlikely Skelos will let it out for a vote – especially since there’s very little time remaining in the session.
But Martins stands to gain by trying to curry favor with the LGBT community – especially since he is facing a challenge from a well-funded Democrat, retired Wall Street executive Adam Haber.
Martins won his seat in 2010 by just 451 votes. He ousted former Democratic Sen. Craig Johnson that year, and the issue of same-sex marriage played a role in the race.
Johnson was a “yes” vote for marriage, while Martins was a “no.” Johnson’s defeat was a blow to same-sex marriage advocates, who worked hard after the December 2009 defeat of the bill in the Senate to oust “no” voting senators – both Democrats and Republicans.
In 2011, thanks to a major push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill with four “yes” votes from GOP lawmakers. Of those four, only one – Buffalo’s Mark Grisanti – is still in the Senate.
In an interview with CapTon last night, Schaefer said his organization is not part of the newfound alliance of progressive groups, labor unions and the WFP that is trying – with Cuomo’s pledge of assistance – to flip the Senate into Democratic hands.
ESPA has not yet been asked to join the cause, Schaefer said, and the organization at this point plans to make endorsements on a case-by-case basis.
In the past, ESPA has endorsed Republicans, and Schaefer left the door open to doing so again this year.
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