Cuomo: Call Your State Senator On Same-Sex Marriage

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just sent out an appeal – from his government email – enlisting New Yorkers in a last-minute push to lobby members of the Senate on same-sex marriage. Here’s the text:

Our state is closer than ever before to achieving marriage equality for all New Yorkers. Today, you can help make it happen.

Last week, the state Assembly voted to pass marriage equality in New York, affirming their commitment to fairness and equal rights for same-sex couples. Now, it is up to the state Senate to do the same. With Albany’s legislative session coming to a close this week, the time for progress is now.

Contact your state Senator today and urge them to vote yes on marriage equality. With this historic legislation, we can ensure that same-sex couples in New York are finally given the rights and protections they deserve.”

The email includes this live link to the Senate home page where all the lawmakers’ contact information is located.

Cuomo met earlier today with several key GOP senators, including two potential “yes” voters, Sens. Steve Saland and Andrew Lanza, and Sen. Kemp Hannon, who is still a “no”, but has been operating as the chief legal mind for the majority conference on the negotiations over religious exemptions.

Gillibrand Raises On Maragos Challenge Threat

Less than one week after Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos confirmed his intention to seek the GOP and Conservative lines for a 2012 challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign sent a fundraising appeal seeking to capitalize on the fact that she might have an opponent.

Maragos is the first Republican to say definitively that he is indeed interested in running next fall. So far, we’ve heard a lot of keeping-options-open talk from two of her 2010 opponents, former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, who lost to Gillibrand in the general; and David Malpass, who lost to DioGuardi in the GOP primary.

Ross Offinger, Gillibrand’s finance manager, sent out an email this morning with “urgent news” of Maragos’ nascent campaign and his pledge to spent between $4 million and $5 million of his own cash on the race.

“This is exactly what the GOP was hoping for,” Offinger wrote. “Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is not only willing to spend his own fortune, but he’s sure to stay in lockstep with national Republican ideology. What’s more, the entire Republican Party is eyeing her seat, hoping they’ll be able to add it to their column and use it to take control of the Senate.”

“We need to mobilize right now for Kirsten and make sure she has the resources she needs to fight the attacks to come. Because he’s self-funded, he can start attacking Kirsten immediately. And that’s exactly what he’s going to do…We all know what a terrific campaigner Kirsten is, but that doesn’t mean she won’t need our help. Particularly now. Going head to head with an opponent who can write his own checks is never easy.

“We can’t rest for a minute. The stakes are too high. Please, give today and let’s make sure Kirsten’s ready for whatever comes her way.”

This is the second appeal Gillibrand has sent out in four days. The first raised the possibility that her seat could be standing between the Democrats and loss of their Senate majority.

Maragos was supposed to be at the Capitol today to join fellow GOP elected officials (Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb etc.) to call for mandate relief. But he called off his trip upstate due to an unspecified work-related emergency.

Add Schulman’s Name To Mix For Weiner’s Seat (Updated)

To the ever-growing list of potential contenders for the House seat Anthony Weiner plans to vacate (any day now) add Lynn Schulman, a life-long Queens Democrat who came close to winning a NYC Council seat back in 2009.

“Some people from the county organization asked me if I would be interested, and I said I would,” Schulman told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon. “…So, my name is now in the mix. I’m very humbled about being asked in the first place because clearly there was a thought that I had the credentials to do this.”

Schulman’s candidacy would be historic, since she is a lesbian and would – if she were elected – be the first openly gay member of New York’s congressional delegation. In addition, Schulman pointed out that her victory would return the seat to the hands of a woman – the district used to be represented by the late Geraldine Ferraro, which people tend to forget. (I know I did).

UPDATE: Gatemouth writes: “The reason you forgot Weiner’s seat was represented by Ferraro was that it wasn’t. Crowley’s seat was represented by Ferraro, although it is true that parts (far less than a majority) of the seat were represented by Ferraro

Considering the fact that Weiner’s on-line sextcapades cost him his political career, perhaps NY-9 residents, who tend to be a bit more on the conservative side in certain areas, would be ready to elect a woman – even if that woman isn’t straight. Schulman isn’t the only woman in the mix, however. Former NYC Councilwoman Melinda Katz has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.

The fact that Schulman was approached by someone connected to the Queens Democratic Party is telling. (She wouldn’t tell me who). Chairman/Rep. Joe Crowley will control the selection of the candidate if Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a special election, and the conventional wisdom is that he would want someone who would be a placeholder so NY-9 can be easily carved up in the next round of redistricting.

I asked Schulman if she would want to be a placeholder, and she responded:

“I can’t speculate on that, and honestly, I don’t want to at this stage of the game. I was very honored to be asked. There is a process here. I’m sure that there will be meetings and everything else. There’s no timeline. Anthony hasn’t even put in his resignation…and until that happens, the governor can’t even call a special election.”

Schulman was defeated in 2009 by NYC Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, 1,834 to 1,593. (Actually, it was a six-way race, but they were the top two vote getters).

Protests ‘R’ Us

Some more footage of the same-sex marriage protests going on today at the Capitol. The video starts off with several GOP senators (among them is Mark Grisanti, still undecided as of Sunday) running the gauntlet after their closed-door conference.

What you can’t tell from this video is how hot it is down by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ office. I’m talking seriously stuffy – a good five to 10 degrees hotter than elsewhere in the Capitol. At the other end of the Senate hallway, another group of protestors has set up camp.

They were singing hymns – including a lovely rendition of “Amazing Grace” in at least two-party harmony – but have moved on to far less melodious chants of “One Man, One Woman” and “God Says No.” They’re whipping themselves into quite a frenzy at the moment.

In case you hadn’t heard: A Skelos spokesman informed the press there would be no comments from the majority leader. “No new developments” was how he put it. Basically, the problem is there’s still no agreement on the rent laws, which is what’s holding everything up at the moment.

Tyree: Legacy Not Imperiled By Marriage Stance

Super Bowl hero and former New York Giant David Tyree is in Albany today to lobby against same-sex marriage legalization, saying that he doesn’t begrudge former teammate Michael Strahan for holding an opposite stance.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Tyree said. “I understand their desire for a push. But I just don’t agree to call it marriage.”

He also defedned his own stance, saying he was unconcerned whether it would affect his legacy.

We need to take the opportuntiy to stand up for what we believe as far as our convictions as believers, as athletes, as Christian athletes.

Report: Obama To Fort Drum Thursday

WWNY and the Associated Press report that President Obama will make his first trip to Fort Drum Thursday at a time when speculation is mounting that the president will soon call for a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

The White House refused to either confirm or deny the report, which cited a source familiar with the upcoming event.

Fort Drum is home to the 10th Mountain Division, one of the most deployed divisions sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Afghan war is now in its 10th year. The U.S. has roughly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, three times as many as when Obama took office. When the president sent an additional 30,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan at the end of 2009, he did so with the caveat that some of those troops would start coming home in July 2011.

The president is due in Manhattan this week for another first: A $1,250-a-plate “Gala with the Gay Community.” The NY Times reported this weekend that Obama, who has so far only publicly supported civil unions for same-sex couples but has said his views on the subject as “evolving,” might be mulling an endorsement of gay marriage.

PEF Has Buyer’s Remorse

Last year, the Public Employees Federation broke ranks with two of its public sector colleagues – NYSUT and CSEA – to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo even as many union members were concerned by his pledge (laid out in the “New New York Agenda,” remember that?) to freeze state worker salaries and push other policies that considered unpalatable by the labor community.

Now that PEF is deadlocked in contract negotiations with the Cuomo administration, its president, Ken Brynien, is experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse.

Speaking to Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom” this morning, Brynien said PEF had endorsed Cuomo because “there were things that he was saying that we agreed with and made sense.” That included cutting back on the use of outside consultants and reducing the number of public authorities through the SAGE Commission.

But now the SAGE Commission has met only a handful of times and is not likely to make any recommendations in this session. Plus, the whole outside consultant discussion has been relegated to the back burner, Brynien said.

“Right now, the concentration is on us,” the PEF president lamented. “…if I knew he was going to do a full all-out assault on the public workers, I would not have supported him.”

Brynien stopped short of saying Cuomo had lied to labor leaders during the 2010 campaign, but he did say he felt the governor might have mischaracterized – or at least obfuscated – his true plans.

He’s particularly chagrined that layoffs that result from the closure of prisons, psychiatric centers and juvenile justice facilities won’t apply to the $450 million in workforce savings the governor included in the 2011-2012 budget agreement, which he is insisting must be achieved through either concessions or the layoff of 9,800 workers.

Brynien said the Cuomo administration has refused to sit down at the negotiating table for four weeks now, adding: “There could be talks today; we’ve told the governor we’re willing to meet with him 24-7 to get things done…they made demands of us that we didn’t like, and we made counter offers. They haven’t come back to us yet.”

Noisy Protests Engulf Capitol

umuob

Here’s the view from outside the Senate Republican offices, where pro and anti-same-sex marriage advocates are gathering.

There’s been singing, hymns, clapping and lots of yelling.

The Rev. Jason McGuire, of the traditional marriage group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said he couldn’t estimate how many advocates were gathering at the Capitol today from his side, but the groups include Baptists, Jewish groups and members of the black clergy.

Also among them is former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree, who is adding some star power. Pro-gay marriage advocates have utilized a very active campaign of using celebrities who support same-sex marriage in advertisements and TV commercials.

Tyree’s former teammate, Michael Strahan, released a video earlier this month in support of same-sex marriage.

The measur remains deadlock in the Senate 31-31 and Senate Republicans continue to huddle in close-door conference.

Catholic Lawyer Says SSM Bill Could Lead To Years Of Lawsuits

An attorney for the New York Archdiocese who has been advising the Cuomo administration on bill language for the same-sex marriage bill, despite his personal opposition and the Church’s opposition to the legalization of gay marriage, says he thinks passing the measure will lead to years of legal challenges.

Attorney Edward Mechmann admits it is unlikely that a lawsuit could be brought to overturn the law, if passed, but he says he expects many legal challenges defining personal religious freedom.

Mechmann outlined several concerns he has with the current bill during an appearance on Talk1300 AM’s “Live from the State Capitol With Fred Dicker.”

He says the bill, as currently written, provides state protection for religions and religious institutions, but doesn’t make it clear that those laws will supercede local regulations that towns, cities and counties have. Mechmann used the example of Yonkers and Westchester county that currently have human rights laws.

He also thinks the bill leaves open the possibility that doctors who refuse to provide same-sex couples fertility drugs could lose their licenses. Or that Knights of Columbus halls or other venues that refused to host receptions for same-sex couples could see their liquor licenses stripped.

Senate To Pass Amended ‘Lauren’s Law’

The Senate today will act once again on a bill that is expected to increase the number of eligible organ donors, but with a small change.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown), would require driver’s license applicants to actively choose whether or not they’re willing to donate by marking, “yes” or “not at this time.”

The lack of the ability to flat out refuse on the application raised concerns and was changed to ensure its passage in the Assembly.

The amended legislation would include a “no” selection for those that do not wish to donate and states the Department of Health shall not maintain any records of any person who checks “no” or “not at this time.”

The bill is expected to pass the Assembly before the legislature breaks for summer, according to a spokesperson.