Gay Anger Meets N.Y. Senate Leader
BY Julie Bolcer
August 08 2010 1:20 PM ET
Simmering anger toward the New York state senate boiled over Saturday at a brunch meeting between the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and senate majority leader John Sampson, who indicated that last year’s failed marriage equality bill would only see another vote when enough support exists to pass it. Contradictions between that goal and the senator’s unabashed support for two avowed opponents of the bill stood at the core of a 90-minute conversation that frustrated participants at nearly every turn.
Some 30 activists met with Sampson at Junior’s, the famous cheesecake emporium in downtown Brooklyn, where they engaged in heated exchanges with each other and the senator, who heads the Democratic conference and represents a district in the borough. At least once, he threatened to leave if the attendees did not stop interrupting him and one another as they fired off questions.
“If you want me to continue to deal with this dialogue, be respectful,” said Sampson. “Because if you’re going to continue to act that way, I can leave. OK?”
The meeting, in the works since May, followed a similar discussion with Sampson earlier this year and arrived amid revelations about his financial support for the reelection campaigns of state senators Shirley Huntley of Queens and Ruben Diaz, Sr. of the Bronx, two of the eight Democrats who voted against the marriage equality bill that failed by a 38-24 margin last December. The Stonewall Democrats have endorsed the senators’ challengers in the Democratic primaries scheduled for September 14, and on Saturday they demanded to know why Sampson, who claims to support marriage equality, appeared on track to undermine their efforts to elect the pro-equality insurgents.
“How can you say that you are committed to our rights when you are helping put in two of our most despicable enemies while we are working to get them out?” asked Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, which also backs the Huntley and Diaz challengers. “It is beyond me that you could do that.”