Weekend Open Thread

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the same-sex marriage bill into law at 11:55 p.m. last night, which means it will take effect in 30 days. July 24, I believe is the date.

It was an historic night – and a huge win for the governor, who swept the table in his first six months on the job. Not only did he get an on-time budget, but he realized all three of his post-budget policy priorities: Ethics reform, gay marriage and a property tax cap – with extension of the rent laws thrown in for good measure.

With the exception of the marriage bill, which was a straight up yes-or-no situation, Cuomo had to compromise to realize his other priorities.

The ethics reform deal was far from perfect. Even good government advocates who worked on and hailed the agreement readily admit that. The cap is offset by mandate relief that critics say doesn’t go nearly far enough. Downstate tenant advocates and their allies in the Black and Latino legislative caucus (a very important political constituency for Cuomo going forward) are unhappy with the rent deal. But, then again, the landlords aren’t thrilled with it, either.

Still, it’s an amazing record of achievement for a newly-minted governor – particularly in a town like Albany, with its reputation of inaction and dysfunction.

The gay marriage win elevates Cuomo still further on the national stage, coming at a time when President Obama is under pressure from the LGBT community to change his position from support of civil unions to full marriage equality as he heads into the 2012 election.

The governor had already been speculated to harbor White House aspirations himself – an effort that would enable him to surpass the the record of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who contemplated, but never went for, a presidential run.

Last night’s vote in the Senate, and Cuomo’s deft maneuvering to succeed where two others – Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson – had failed, has catapulted him into the national spotlight. Expect the 2016 chatter – and the scrutiny – to only intensify from here.

It has been a long two weeks for us here at CapTon. We’re all taking a bit of a break. I’ll be back with you tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to discuss whatever it is that strikes your fancy – same-sex marriage, the big ugly, SUNY 2020, ethics, Obama, the weather. Enjoy your weekend, and be well.

P.S. If you haven’t already, read this tick-tock by NYTimes scribe Michael Barbaro, it lays out in detail how Cuomo got the Senate to yes.

Paterson Praises Cuomo For ‘Extraordinary’ Victory

Former Gov. David Paterson has issued a statement praising his successor (and onetime potential primary opponent), Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for succeeding where he failed in 2009.

Paterson also couldn’t help but give himself a little pat on the back. Here’s his statement.

“What Governor Cuomo has done is nothing short of extraordinary and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for finally providing
common-sense equality to all New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo has already brought landmark reform through the budget process, a property tax cap, and rational tuition for SUNY and CUNY. And now, he has found a way to bring marriage equality to our state and restore New York’s position as a beacon of civil rights for the nation and the world.”

“I want to particularly commend my former Republican senate colleagues – Senators Stephen Saland, James Alesi, Roy McDonald and Mark Grisanti– who acted with courage tonight by voting their conscience. Tonight, I am ecstatic, I am elated, and I am proud to be a New Yorker.”

“Throughout my tenure as Governor and a public servant, I put forward and advocated for a series of reforms aimed at ending discrimination against same-sex couples in New York State. As Senate Minority Leader, I helped the landmark SONDA bill get passed. And upon taking office as Governor, I issued a memorandum directing State agencies to afford recognition to same-sex couples legally married outside of New York to the full extent permitted by law.

“I worked to enact a law that would bring marriage equality to New York. Ultimately, while we were able to get a vote in the senate, that vote failed. But as I said on the Senate floor that day, the night is darkest before the dawn. Tonight, the sun is rising.”

Cuomo Celebrates Marriage Vote

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just ducked into a meeting on third floor offices outside the Senate chamber, obstensibly to talk with Senate Republicans, following the successful 33-29 vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

Cuomo plans to hold a news conference later today, but he released this statement in response to the vote:

New York has finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted,” Governor Cuomo said. “With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law. With this vote, marriage equality will become a reality in our state, delivering long overdue fairness and legal security to thousands of New Yorkers.”

“I commend Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Minority Leader John Sampson for their leadership and Senator Tom Duane for his lifetime commitment to fighting for equality for all New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo continued. “I also thank Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell for ushering this measure through their chamber.” More >

Saland’s Statement On His Vote

Saland just fired out this explanation for why he is voting yes on the bill. Giving it 32 votes.

In 2009 when the marriage equality bill came before the Senate for a vote, I struggled with the decision. This is an issue which a great many have a deep and passionate interest, both those for marriage equality and those who support the traditional view of marriage. In part, the difficulty in arriving at my decision is that I respect and understand the views coming from both sides of the issue.

In fact, my decision today is rooted in my upbringing. My parents taught us to be respectful, tolerant and accepting of others and to do the right thing. I’ve received thousands of calls, e-mails, post cards and letters.
Many of them, whether they were from proponents or opponents, concluded by calling upon me to do the right thing. I want to do the right thing, but needless to say, that decision cannot be the “right thing” for both sides of the equation and, whatever my decision, there will be many who will be disappointed.

As a traditionalist, I have long viewed marriage as a union between a man and woman. As one who believes in equal rights, I understood that the State was denying marriage to those in same sex relationships. In 2009, I
believed that civil unions for same sex couples would be a satisfactory conclusion.

Since that time, I have met with numerous groups and individuals on both sides of the issue, especially during the last few months. As I did, I anguished over the importance and significance of my vote. My intellectual and emotional journey has at last ended. I must define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality in the definition of law as it pertains to marriage. To do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing.

For me to support marriage equality, however, it was imperative that the legislation contain all the necessary religious exemptions, so as not to interfere with religious beliefs which I hold as important as equal rights. I believe this legislation satisfactorily resolves the religious exemptions.

I was part of a trio of Senators that negotiated with the Governor and his staff for greater religious protections in this legislation – vastly in excess of the prior defeated version and substantially more than this year’s earlier version. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the important and direct role of the Governor in these negotiations and his genuine sensitivity and concern to the importance of religious freedoms.

While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know that my vote is a vote of conscience. I have contemplated many difficult votes throughout my career and this is by far one of the most, if not the most
difficult. Struggling with my traditionalist view of marriage and my deep rooted values to treat all people with respect and as equals, I believe after much deliberation, I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.

Same-Sex Marriage Vote

10:29 – The vote is announced. 33 to 29. It passes.

10:27 – We belive he is going to be the last speaker and that they will announce the votes immediately after this.

10:26 – And we are back. Senator Carl Kruger is speaking on the bill.

10:22 – Still waiting for the chamber to continue with the vote.

10:18 – Short recess in the chamber. Waiting.

10:18 – Erie County GOP Chair says he is “disappointed” in Grisanti.

10:16 – Cheers go up as Senator Grisanti says he is going to be voting yes.

10:15 – “For me the issue boils down to this. I have done the research. I am wiser today.”

10:14 – He says he has done the research and is wiser today than yesterday. In previously weeks, he has said he is undecided. Before that, he said he would vote no on the bill if it used the word “marriage”.

10:12 – Two more speakers tonight. Sen. Grisanti is speaking now. We are told that he is going to be voting yes.

10:10 – Sorry had to jump away and do some television producing. Duane is still speaking. His time just ran out.

10:02 – Senator Duane is speaking now. The sponsor of the bill, and the only openly gay member of the state senate.

10:00 – Senator Saland just sent out a press release describing his vote. You can read it on a separate blog post.

9:57 – Diaz is giving a two minute limit by Lt. Governor Duffy.

9:55 – Ruben Diaz is now speaking against the bill.

9:53 – Doing the roll call now. Vote is 36 – 26. That is the chapter amendment that just passed, not the final vote. We are waiting for the final vote shortly.

9:52 – Hannon is voting yes as well.

9:49 – Ruben Diaz Jr. Sr. rises to speak in opposition of this bill. But they are on the amendment so he sits down.

9:48 – Says his vote is one of conscious and he is at peace with his vote. He is going to vote yes. He is the 32nd person to publicly say he is going to vote yes on this bill, so that means that this will pass tonight. The vote continues.

9:47 – “Needlessly to say my decision on this bill is going to disappoint many people.”

9:46 – Saland says he has struggled over this issue, coming from a traditional background and being raised by parents that preached to me tolerance.

9:45 – He is now on 12 minutes into the speech. Appears to be wrapping up, though I am not sure.

9:40 – Saland is still explaining the religious carve outs. He has been speaking for more than 7 minutes now.

9:38 – NY1′s Josh Robin asks the question, “Would Sen. Saland stand to explain the bill if he was going to vote no?” I tend to agree. We have had him as an undecided for a month now. But Gannett is reporting that he is the 32nd vote.

9:36 – As we note on twitter, more than 30,000 people are watching the live streaming of the webcast on the NYS Senate’s website.

9:34 – Saland praises the governor for his efforts in working with him and other Republican senators to change the bill language. He is explaining what has been added to the original bill now.

9:33 – Sen. Saland is now speaking about the religious carve outs that were added to the bill.

9:32 – They are taking up same-sex marriage now. Senator Tom Duane speaking now.

9:30 – And they are back, taking care of a few non-controversial items.

9:26 – Senate is at ease again. Not sure what the delay is, but I expect they will be back up in a minute.

9:25 – All the gay marriage advocates seem very happy as they arrived at the chamber. Assembly sponsor Danny O’Donnell has been smiling for the past few hours.

9:23 – One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t always hear the votes by senators on the floor, so we will do our best to keep track.

9:22 – Right now, Lt. Governor Duffy is at the dais about to start the session.

The vote is about to begin… I will live blog the results.

Lanza Voting No

Sen. Andrew Lanza, the Staten Island Republican who sought greater religious protections in the same-sex marriage bill, announced this evening he’s a no vote on the measure.

That leaves the same-sex marriage vote awfully tight this evening and leaves Sens. Mark Grisanti and Steve Saland the only undecideds left. Senate Republicans have adjourned for a 15 minute conference.

H/T Gannett Albany.
His statement:

After exhaustive consideration of the issue of same-sex marriage during which I have listened to thousands of good and decent people on both sides of the issue, consulted numerous writings, done considerable soul searching and perhaps, most importantly, listened to the people I represent on Staten Island, I have decided to vote no.

Government can, and should, confer all the rights and benefits associated with marriage to same-sex couples while still reserving the word marriage to describe a union between a man and a woman. Government’s power to validate or approve of anything is accomplished by conveying government benefits to those who engage in the government favored activity, and not by the name.

Calling a union between a man and a woman a marriage, and one between a man and man a civil union, does not invalidate one or the other.

I am grateful for the many discussions I have had with so many Staten Islanders as well as for the prayers which have been extended by those on each side. As always, my determination is based upon representing the best interests of the people of Staten Island.

When Will Same-Sex Marriage Be Voted On?

That’s the million-dollar question here.

All signs point to a relatively early vote. There’s a sense the Senate Republicans want to quickly move through the vote and many “no” votes won’t be making lengthy statements.

One Democratic lawmaker says the marriage vote won’t come until 9 at the earliest, with a final vote at around 11.

However, Sen. Mark Grisanti, who is believed to be on the fence, has said he plans to explain his vote. And expect the always outspoke Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat and Pentecostal minister, to rail against the measure.

The Senate finished debating the SUNY 2020 bill and are now taking up the so-called “big ugly” omnibus measure, which includes a 2 percent property tax cap, mandate relief and a long-term rent control extension for New York City.

Then the same-sex marriage vote must be taken up in the Rules Committee. One interesting note to consider is whether a hand viote will be held in the Rules Committee, where fence-sitting Sen. Steve Saland will have a vote.

His yea or nay will likely foreshadow his floor vote.

Senate Live Stream

For those of you who are interested. The gay marriage moment is not going to happen until the bitter end.

That means the SUNY 2020 and big ugly bills have to go through committees and get onto the floor for debate and votes. After their marathon closed-door conference today, the Senate Republicans aren’t likely to be in a debating mood, particularly when it comes to the controversial gay marriage issue.

The Senate Democrats, on the other hand, haven’t been cooling their heels for most of the day and might have a lot to say. So you might want to settle in make some snacks and brew some coffee or pour yourself a drink. We’ll be taking the marriage vote live on YNN, so look for us there.

Watch live streaming video from nysenate at livestream.com

Same-Sex Marriage Coming To The Senate Floor (Updated)

There will be a vote on the same-sex marriage bill tonight, confirmed a GOP senator, who says it will come after the big ugly and SUNY 2020.

What time will this historic moment take place then? He replied:

“That’s unpredictable, because it depends how long the other bills take…We truly did not know if it would get out of the conference…Someone said this seems to be the consensus that it goes out, and so it will. And that was it.”

For what it’s worth, this same senator, who is an avowed “no” voter and asked not to be named, rejected the rampant rumors that there was a coup attempt on Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos sometime over the past 24 hours. “That’s absolutely not true,” he said.

UPDATED: Skelos just put out a formal statement, he did not speak to the press after the marathon closed-door conference of more than 7 hours broke. Here’s the statement:

“After many hours of deliberation and discussion over the past several weeks among the members, it has been decided that same-sex marriage legislation will be brought to the full Senate for an up or down vote.”

“The entire Senate Republican Conference was insistent that amendments be made to the Governor’s original bill in order to protect the rights of religious institutions and not-for-profits with religious affiliations. I appreciate the Governor’s cooperation in working with us to address these important issues and concerns.”

“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.”

SSM Religious Exemption Amendment Language

It’s not pretty, but here’s the language of the religious exemptions to the same-sex marriage bill agreed to by the legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier today.

(Folks, what I mean by “it’s not pretty” is that this, unlike the previous documents, isn’t a clean pdf, but rather a cut-and-paste word document I cobbled together myself. I am not referring to the content of the amendment. Sorry if there was confusion).

ssmamendment