Gay Anger Meets N.Y. Senate Leader

BY Julie Bolcer

August 08 2010 1:20 PM ET

Sampson, who presides over a slim 32-30 majority, struggled to reconcile
a strategy that he said calls for flipping more Republican districts to
Democratic control this season while at the same time retaining members
who voted against the marriage equality bill and working to change
their minds. In tones that wavered between defiant and patronizing, he repeatedly cited the ability to bring the marriage equality bill for a vote as
an accomplishment that never would have occurred under the Republicans,
who ruled Albany for 40 years until the Democratic takeover in 2008,
thanks in no small part to $1 million from gay donors nationwide.

“I’m
sorry that you feel I’m an enemy because I support my members,” he
said. “That’s something we can agree to disagree. With all due respect, I
was the one who put this bill on the floor on December 2, 2009. When
the Republicans were in control, this bill did not see the light of
day.”

Some attendees objected to the comparison, noting that the
Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act passed in 2002 after gay
leaders negotiated with the Republican majority. They expressed openness
to making similar deals in the near future, though not a single Republican senator voted for marriage equality last year, if the Democrats cannot
deliver. Others questioned his mantra of unwavering
support for fellow Democrats, given that some members, like the
convicted felon Hiram Monserrate of Queens, have proven expendable. The
conversation ultimately turned to a direct challenge of the Sampson
leadership and his Democrats’ tenuous hold on power.

“Why should
we support your leadership?” asked Jon Winkelman of Queens. “Why should
we not make you a major focus of our of anger and our protest if you
are going to keep protecting and empowering and making sure that a
coalition of bigots stays in the senate?”

Sampson seemed unfazed,
confident in his posture of a leader intent on keeping together a
fractured majority and building on it into the next legislative session. 

“Just because we may be
different on a piece of legislation, does not mean I am going to not
support a person because of a piece of legislation,” he said. “I support
the issue, I put the issue forth, and as I said before, I will work
with those who are supportive of this so we can move forward.”









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