Gay Marriage

Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.

The 5 – 4 decision strikes down the remaining thirteen state bans on same-sex marriage in place before today’s ruling.

The case is pretty straightforward. The court was tasked with deciding whether the 14th amendment of the constitution – equal protection under law – provided same-sex couples the right to marry. The ruling also requires states to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state.

Opponents to same-sex marriage argued before the court that a key function of marriage is to procreate and produce offspring. The majority rejected that opinion.

“This is not to say that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children,” They said in their opinion. ” An ability, desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State.”

That doesn’t mean that religious leaders will be required to solemnize marriages between same-sex couples. The majority is clear in their opinion that religious officials can hold their own views of same-sex marriage and act in a way they see fit.

In their dissent, the minority said it shouldn’t be the court’s function to create a nationwide definition of marriage.

“Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not,” Justice Roberts said in his dissent. “The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage. And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational. In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

But the majority looks at the decision in a different light. They say rather than defining marriage for all, they’re providing equal protection under the law.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. … [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” They said. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

The decision takes effect immediately, two days before New York City’s annual LGBT pride parade and nearly 46 years to the day after the city’s Stonewall riots.

Governor Cuomo released a statement shortly after the ruling came down:

“New York has been a leader in the fight for marriage equality, and today’s Supreme Court decision affirms what we have fought so hard for – that marriage is a fundamental right that should be afforded to everyone, regardless of whom they love. When we passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011, New York sent a message to the nation that it was time to end one of society’s greatest inequities, and I am thrilled to see the Court join us on the right side of history. Dividing people into first and second-class citizens is not only wrong, it runs contrary to who we are as a nation. From Stonewall to Edie Windsor, New Yorkers have always been on the front lines of the fight to ensure equality and fairness for all. Today, we are proud New Yorkers and proud Americans. Today, progress marches on.”

Could Dante Inspire Kim Catullo to Hit the Trail?

Quality family time for Bill de Blasio may not be barbeques or picnics in Prospect Park. This summer it’s the campaign trail.

De Blasio has attracted a lot of attention for putting his family front and center at many of his campaign events. So it may not come as a surprise his first TV spot features his son, Dante.

Christine Quinn often has her father, Larry Quinn, by her side. But her wife, Kim Catullo, is rarely seen at political events. Although she did walk the Gay Pride Parade this year.

So could de Blasio’s family inspire Quinn?

We asked today. The answer: Not sure.

A: I haven’t seen the ad. I suspect there will be lots of ads soon. It’s getting to that time of year. But I haven’t seen it. And Bill has a lovely family. A lovely family, and I know he is incredibly proud of them and he has every right to be. They really are a terrific group of folks. A lovely family.

Q: Can we expect to see Kim out more on the campaign trial?

A: (Laughter) You never know.


Senator Diaz Goes To Washington

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. this morning announced he and fellow Hispanic clergy members will be participating later this month in an all-night vigil en route to Washington, D.C. to protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices deliberate cases involving same-sex marriage.

According to Diaz’s latest “What You Should Know” email, members of the New York Hispanic Clergy organization will start their vigil on March 25 at midnight when they board buses bound for the nation’s capital.

Once in D.C., they will join up with the National Organization for Marriage at 9 a.m. on March 26 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Once we arrive in Washington D.C., we will join people traveling from all over this nation – including Puerto Rico – to bear witness in favor of traditional marriage to remain between a man and a woman,” wrote Diaz, who is a a Pentecostal minister.

“You should know that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has always been in the forefront, throughout the nation, in the struggle to stop same sex marriage. It is also a fact that for many years, NOM has been raising funds, and coordinating every march and demonstration in the state of New York and everywhere else.”

“You should remember that when Governor Andrew Cuomo used his office and staff to raise money and to orchestrate the passing of gay marriage in the State, it was the National Organization for Marriage among others, who took the fight on their shoulders.”

“With their help, we organized different rallies and demonstrations where thousands of people came together, in front of Governor Cuomo’s office in Manhattan, On the steps of the Supreme court of Bronx County and in many other places.”

“Now, One more time, NOM is giving us the opportunity to join people from all over the nation, in what could be our last opportunity to deal with same sex marriage once and for all. Due to the fact, and you should know, that with the ruling of the United States Supreme Court, same sex marriage will be legal or illegal in every state in the nation, including Puerto Rico and any other colony of the United States.”

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Diaz Sr., a conservative Bronx Democrat, has long been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. He was the only Democratic member of the Senate to vote “no” when the bill came to the floor in June 2011.

The measure passed because four Republicans crossed the aisle to join the rest of the Democrats in voting “yes.” Only one of those four – Sen. Mark Grisanti, (a Buffalo Republican who used to be a Democrat) – remains in the Senate.

Alesi: ‘I Am Not Running For Re-Election’

During an exclusive interview on Capital Tonight, Republican Sen. Jim Alesi made a surprise announcement: He has decided not to seek re-election in his Rochester-area district.

Alesi sparked controversy when he became the first Republican to publicly support same sex marriage last year. Those troubles were magnified by an ill-timed lawsuit Alesi brought against two of his own constitutents. He dropped the suit and apologized repeatedly, calling the move boneheaded, but the damage was done.

Conservatives and many Republicans in his district have been eyeing Alesi’s seat. And Democrats in the district also felt he was vulnerable and could be defeated.

When the senator sat down with Liz Benjamin tonight he said he thought an intra party battle could cost the Republicans the majority. And he decided to step aside for the good of the conference and the party because he has lost support from local GOP committees and was widely expected to face a primary challenge from Assemblyman Sean Hanna.

Still, during the interview the senator claimed that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos had been completely supportive of his decision to run for re-election and did not urge him to reconsider.

“At some point, you have to really look at what is good for the party. What makes it easiest to maintain the majority. And my not running is really the easiest way for the Senate Republicans to work with the Governor in the majority,” Alesi said.

Liz also asked the Senator what he plans to do next. He said he’s unlikely to leave public life entirely, and joked that with his liberal views on social issues, he could perhaps move to Manhattan and run for office where he’d be more likely to get elected.

You can watch the whole interview tonight at 8 p.m. on YNN. (It will re-air at 11:30 p.m.)

Grisanti Campaign Ad Touts UB2020, Ethics Law (But Not You-Know-What)

Sen. Mark Grisanti is putting his large campaign war chest to good work, releasing a 30-second TV ad today that gives the Buffalo Republican credit for the tax code overhaul, last year’s ethics law and the long sought UB2020 legislation.

Conspicuously absent from the ad: Grisanti’s yes vote for same-sex marriage.

Albany: just two short years ago. Gridlock. Corruption. Western New York ignored. Something had to change and it did, when we sent Mark Grisanti to the state Senate. Mark Grisanti won passage of UB2020, good jobs and a stronger economy for our region. He fought for a tough new ethics law and the lowest tax rates in 50 years.

Grisanti was one of four Republican yes votes for same-sex marriage, a move that cost him support from the Erie County Conservative Party. Grisanti, who won a narrow victory against Sen. Antoine Thompson that ultimately help the GOP gain control of he chamber, represents a Democratic-heavy district.

Like the other GOP lawmakers who voted for the law (Sens. Roy McDonald, Stephen Saland and Jim Alesi) Grisanti is flush with cash from LGBT advocates and other gay marriage supporters who backed the bill.

Addabbo Says Gay Marriage Vote A ‘Non-Issue’

Sen. Joe Addabbo isn’t too concerned about how his vote in favor of same-sex marriage will play in Queens district, even as his Republican opponent Erich Ulrich tries to paint him as a “flip flopper.”

Last night on the show, Liz asked Ulrich, a major New York City supporter of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (who has been accused of a few flip-flops in his day), how the vote in favor would play. Addabbo was one of several Democrats in the Senate who had cast no votes against the bill the last time the measure came up in 2009, but relented during last year’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo-led push.

“I think that his flip-flop on gay marriage is going to hurt him,” Ulrich said. “I don’t believe that I’ll have to bring that up. I think that that’s clear as day.”

My NY1 colleague Zack Fink caught up with Addabbo, who practically downplayed the significance of the vote.

“We vote here in Albany on well over 2,000 pieces of legislation and the marriage equality bill was to benefit a certain segment of the population,” Addabbo said. “We vote on issues like the budget which effects everybody. I think a year later from the marriage bill people realize for many it didn’t concern them and it’s a non-issue for many of the people that I speak to in my district.”

He added voters in the district care more about pocket-book issues.

“I think people are more concerned about the issues that concern them each and every day like taxes and health care,” he said.

As Liz noted this morning, the four Senate Republican yes votes have been showered with both praise and money from deep-pocketed LGBT advocates. But the Democrats who changed their votes haven’t fared as well.

Sen. Carl Kruger, who The New York Post outed in a front-page story, is no longer in office following a guilty plea in a federal corruption case. Sen. Shirley Huntley has also faced questions over her staff’s use of public dollars.

Former Sen. Bill Stachowksi of Buffalo, a “no” vote in 2009, was defeated by Sen. Tim Kennedy in a Democratic primary that saw a major effort of fundraising from gay marriage advocates. Kennedy voted for the measure.

Lorigo Explains Decision To Back Swanick

Here is sound from our YNN Buffalo station last night with Erie County Conservative Party Chair Ralph Lorigo, where he explains why they decided to endorse Democrat Charles Swanick instead of Republican incumbent Senator Mark Grisanti. Watching the interview, I get the sense that it was more than just his vote on gay marriage that led to the boards decision, but Lorigo made it clear that Swanick has better conservative credentials than the Repubilcan incumbent.

“A difficult decision. Well discussed inside there. Swanick is pro-life. Pro-traditional marriage. Pro 2nd amendment. Fiscally conservative. Grisanti talked about his issues. Made a very good presentation to the board. But in the end it was the decision of the board that we needed to move forward with an endorsement for Chuck Swanick,” Lorigo said.

Lorigo says the expedited calendar forced them to do endorsements earlier than normal. They also endorsed a handful of other candidates as well.

Lorigo also goes into detail about the proposed lines for the 60th Senate district, which he says will favor Swanick because he represents large portions of the new seat currently in the Erie County legislature. But, the senate maps have yet to be finalized, so it will be interesting to see if Senate Republicans tweak the lines specifically so less of Swanick’s current seat is in Grisanti’s district.

ESPA Heartened By Prop 8 Reversal

Gay marriage advocates are celebrating a landmark ruling today by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California striking down the Prop 8 ban of same-sex marriage in California. The court found the ballot referendum unconstitutional, saying it violated the rights of gay individuals.

It’s unclear what opponents of same-sex marriage are going to do, but it is likely they will appeal to the entire 9th Circuit or bring the case to the US Supreme Court.

Back in New York, Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross Levi applauded the ruling and used it as a rallying cry to continue the fight to protect the legislative gains the gay, lesbian and transgender community has made – as well as the lawmakers that supported their agenda.

“In New York State, more than a decade of work resulted in our marriage win, and we have seen only positive effects from loving same-sex couples being able to marry – from the income generated by their weddings to the legal protections afforded to these families to the outpouring of joy as New Yorkers have seen their friends, family and neighbors publicly declare their love and commitment to each other,” Levi said in a statement.

“We must be vigilant in defending our victory here in the Empire State. All of the New York State legislators – Democrats and Republicans, Senators and Assemblymembers — who voted for marriage are up for election this November. As a community, we must flex our political muscle in standing by those who stood by us.”

Senate GOP Benefitting From Gay Marriage

It’s been widely reported since the financial filings came out that the four Republican Senators who supported Marriage Equality – Grisanti, McDonald, Alesi, and Saland – have received a large amount of money from the gay community. Some have also supported Senator Skelos and the Senate Republicans, though not nearly as much as they four individual Senators.

Which makes it interesting to note that Grisanti, McDonald, Alesi, and Saland all transferred $24,000 or more to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Here’s the link (scroll to the end).

(I should note that the Senate GOP actually moved $25k to Alesi’s campaign in July, before he moved it back to the Senate GOP in December. So that is more of a wash.)

You will note that a lot of Senate Republicans transferred money to the larger account – which makes sense because they all benefit from retaining control of the Senate. But most campaigns only moved a few thousand dollars, outside of Sen. Golden who transferred more than $10k.

A skeptic might say that the gay community that donated so heavily towards the four yes votes might note have intended for that money to go to the Republican conference that primarily voted against the bill, (and reports are that a majority of the conference didn’t want the bill to go to the floor, though some people have disputed this.)

NOM Launches ‘Money Dance’ Web Ad (Updated)

One day after a fundraiser was held for the four Republican Senators who voted yes on same-sex marriage, the National Organization for Marriage launched a web ad attacking the quartet.

Last night, Senators Grisanti, Alesi, McDonald and Saland raised a combined $900,000 at a fundraiser set up by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The ad, called “Money Dance” suggests that the four Senators voted for the bill in order to get their campaign coffers lined by Manhattan millionaires and billionaires.

“These four state Senators have betrayed New Yorkers in their quest for wedding cash,” Brown said. “They abandoned their stated values and their own promises to voters. We want to expose these Senators and their same-sex marriage money dance. NOM and our ‘Let the People Vote’ coalition will not rest until these legislators are turned out of office and the people of New York are allowed to vote on the definition of marriage.”

NOM has been calling for a referendum on the issue, and have launched a website at Currently there is no mechanism for referendum in New York. It would require an amendment to the constitution, so the earliest there could be a vote on such an issue would by 2013. Though, that is highly unlikely because the Senate and Assembly are unlikely to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment in each of the next two years.

Note: Having some trouble with the embed on this, but you should be able to access the ad from the link in the first sentence.

Update: Senator Grisanti’s Chief of Staff Doug Curella sent YNN this response to the ad:

“Senator Grisanti would never sell his vote on any piece of legislation, NOM is an out of state special interest group that has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars against senator Grisanti for doing the right thing.”