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N.Y. Senate Deal
Voided... Marriage Back on Track?

N.Y. Senate Deal
Voided... Marriage Back on Track?


New York State senator Malcolm Smith, who reportedly used gay marriage as a bargaining chip to convince three conservative state senators to caucus with Democrats, killed the deal Wednesday by saying to continue negotiations would reduce the "moral standing" of the Democratic Party. One of the three senators -- Ruben Diaz Sr. -- blames the gays. But will Smith's stand be enough to get marriage in New York back on track?

New York State senator Malcolm Smith, who reportedly used gay marriage as a bargaining chip to help convince three conservative state senators to caucus with Democrats -- thereby making Democrats the state senate's majority party -- issued a statement Wednesday that effectively nullifies the original deal.

"Today I am announcing that the Democratic Members of the Senate have elected to cease negotiations on reorganization matters with all three Senators as discussed both in private and in the press," Smith said in the statement. "We are suspending negotiations, effective immediately, because to do so otherwise would reduce our moral standing and the long-term Senate Democratic commitment to reform and to change."

The deal as it was reported would have brought the socially conservative "Gang of Three" -- senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Carl Kruger and senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr., all of whom oppose gay marriage -- into the Democratic fold by making Espada the Democratic majority leader and Smith the president pro tempore of the senate, rather than having one person hold both positions as in the past.

Smith reportedly had also agreed to delay a vote on same-sex marriage. LGBT leaders and elected officials have been notably silent since reports of the deal first surfaced last week.

In today's statement Smith said he would rather "wait two more years to take charge of the Senate than to simply serve the interests of the few." During a press conference Wednesday morning, he added, "I thought this was about reform and about real change ... and it became very clear to me over time that this was more about personal interests and not the reform that the Senate Democrats ran on."

According to the New York Daily News, he also indicated that gay marriage would not be used as any sort of bargaining tool in negotiations for control of the senate.

The Empire State Pride Agenda was quick to release a statement applauding Smith's change in course.

"We applaud Senator Malcolm Smith's ongoing efforts to lead the new Senate majority that voters chose during the recent elections," Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle said in the statement. "By stating that reform in the Senate cannot include bargaining away civil rights, Senator Smith has once again demonstrated his commitment to standing up for all New Yorkers." The statement went on to say that the organization would continue working to secure the votes necessary to pass a marriage equality bill in the senate.

But Smith's announcement has angered some, including Sen. Ruben Diaz, who, in a statement to the Daily News Tuesday evening expressed his frustration with the gay community. He insists calls from gay activists played a role in killing the deal.

"The gays are calling my office," he said. "They're jamming my phones. They're going to see what we can do. They've going to see exactly what we can do. Ed Koch is going to see what we can do. They're just going to see. That is what I'm telling you."

Last week reported that same-sex marriage may well have been bargained away in reaching a senate deal. At the time, Freedom to Marry's executive director Evan Wolfson said that despite reports to the contrary, it was important to stay positive.

"Don't buy into the idea that marriage is being put on the back burner," he said. "Politicians always float trial balloons. There are those who want us to surrender and walk away and expect less. We've only just begun to fight, and we can't give up before we've started." (Kerry Eleveld,

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