New York conservatives face tough battle pushing through same-sex marriage ban
February 21 2004 12:00 AM ET
The New York State Conservative Party on Friday warned state lawmakers to outlaw same-sex unions now or risk same-sex marriage supporters making gains similar to those in Massachusetts and California. A bill in the state legislature would ban same-sex marriages, saying a "marriage or union is absolutely void if contracted by two persons of the same sex, regardless of whether such marriage or union is recognized or solemnized in another jurisdiction," according to the state Conservative Party.
The idea met with little initial support among legislative leaders. "We don't see it moving," said Eileen Larrabee, spokeswoman for assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.
While similar bills have died without action in the past, state Conservative Party chairman Michael Long hopes the measure will generate more interest this election year. "It's my hope legislators will feel some pressure from constituents at home to protect the institution of marriage," Long said. "There is more focus now than ever before on the issue. A failure to act by the legislature could lead this state into a lot of problems."
Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno does not support gay marriages but in the past has said that people "have the right, as adults, to live their lives as they see fit." Speaking on WROW-AM radio Friday, the Rensselaer County Republican said he would review the marriage bill. "We have to look at what all the ramifications are," Bruno said. "We will talk to all of the interested parties, the Conservative Party, the Pride Agenda. I find them to be very realistic, very reasonable in terms of improving the quality of life here."
In 2002 the Republican-led senate approved legislation to outlaw discrimination in housing and other areas based on a person's sexual orientation. The measure was also passed by the Democrat-led assembly and signed into law by Republican governor George Pataki. Earlier this month, at the urging of Pataki, the state changed its position and decided to pay unemployment benefits to homosexuals who quit their jobs to follow their partners taking new jobs out of state.
Joe Tarver of the gay rights group Empire State Pride Agenda said he isn't worried that Long's proposal will become law. "Those bills have been around for several years now, and they have not seen
any movement," Tarver said. "From everything we hear, there doesn't appear to be any momentum behind those bills or any desire by the leadership in Albany to address this issue."