Tyree Moves to Block Marriage Equality in New York

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com June 20 2011 8:30 PM ET

Former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree lobbied against the
marriage equality bill on Monday in Albany, where he said that passage
of the measure would lead to social instability and called instead for
"a people's vote" on the issue.

“If we redefine marriage, we’re opening up the door for a whole different type of lawlessness to come in,” Tyree said at the state capitol building, where marriage equality advocates and opponents, including many clergy members, held loud but peaceful rallies throughout the morning and afternoon.

“Who’s to say polygamists can’t have five wives after that?” added Tyree, who is known for an improbable catch in the final moments of the 2008 Super Bowl. “So it opens up the door for the moral fabric of our society to move in what I believe is a negative direction.”

Last week Tyree appeared in a video for the National Organization for Marriage in which he said passage of the marriage equality bill in New York would lead to “anarchy” nationwide. A devout Christian, he said Monday that he is new to policy issues, so he could see himself lobbying lawmakers only on marriage equality and abortion, which he also opposes.

Asked whether he personally knew any gay players in the NFL, the retired Tyree said he did not, although he believed there probably were some gay men in the league. He said that had a fellow player come out, it would not have made him uncomfortable.

“No. Love them all the same,” he said.

His stance against marriage equality puts Tyree at odds with other professional athletes including the NBA’s Steve Nash, the NHL’s Sean Avery, and Michael Strahan, also formerly of the New York Giants. All three recorded videos this year for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality series from the Human Rights Campaign, which helped spark an unprecedented level of conversation about professional sports and gay rights.

Tyree said he respected their difference of opinion.

“I love them,” said Tyree. “I think they’re great guys. I hope my position doesn’t change their feelings toward me, but at the same time I have no desire to be politically correct or relevant. I’m a man of deep faith and conviction, and when it comes to something that I believe is as sacred as marriage, I don’t believe our state should be tampering with the definition of it.”

The NFL star said the people of New York should be allowed to vote on the question of whether to legalize same-sex marriage, the same message of an afternoon press conference in Albany presented by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which last month organized Mayday for Marriage rallies around the state. The press conference included Tyree in addition to Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of NOM, according to sponsors, who said they delivered more than 60,000 petitions to Republican senators.

“We would like to see a people’s vote,” said the Reverend Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, after the press conference. He challenged statements about widespread support for marriage equality from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and advocates, who base their arguments on a series of polls since April that show 58% of voters in favor.

“If he’s convinced of that, let him put it to a vote,” McGuire said about the governor, who has made passage of the marriage equality bill a priority this legislative session. Having passed the Assembly last week, the measure still awaits action in the Senate, where the Republican majority and the governor are negotiating unspecified religious exemptions.

The prospect of a “people’s vote” on marriage equality seems unlikely in New York, which in contrast to states such as California has no ballot initiative process akin to the one that led to Proposition 8. New York has limited referendum practices that would allow voters to consider a constitutional amendment passed by two consecutive sessions of the legislature or proposed by a constitutional convention, but no such amendment could be presented any earlier than the 2014 ballot.