New Yorkers United for Marriage, the coalition of groups working to pass a marriage equality bill by June, released its first statewide television ad Wednesday and unveiled a new website.
According to a news release from the coalition, the ad will begin airing statewide Thursday. It features two New Yorkers, Mary Jo Kenney and Jo-Ann Shain, who have been in a committed relationship for 29 years and explain why marriage matters to them.
"The wedding vows are so important for us because we have been living those vows for our entire relationship -- at this point we just want to be able to say 'I do' in New York State," Shain says in the ad. Watch the video below.
The 30-second spot is the first ad in a media campaign that could spend as much as $1 million over the coming weeks, according to an earlier report in The New York Times. A spokesperson for the coalition would not confirm that figure, but said the first ad represents a "significant buy" across the state. Advocates have said they intend to use the campaign to amplify the findings of a recent poll that indicated record support for marriage equality among New York State voters at 58% and an all-time low of opposition at 36%.
New Yorkers United for Marriage also unveiled a new website, www.NewYorkersUnitedforMarriage.org, where New Yorkers can take action to contact state lawmakers, find the latest news and make a donation to the bipartisan coalition. The growing coalition working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo includes the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, and the League of Women Voters of New York State.
During a press conference Tuesday, Cuomo expressed optimism that the "long overdue" marriage equality bill, which failed in the state senate in 2009, could pass by June. He said he planned to take the case to the people of New York and not lawmakers.
Also Tuesday, a group of more than 720 religious leaders from a range of denominations across the state voiced their support for marriage equality in Albany. They join business leaders and labor in urging lawmakers to pass the bill.
"We've been pleased to have elected officials state their support. Business leaders state their support, and civil groups, and now we're very pleased to add the voice of leaders of faith," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, in a brief interview with The Advocate. "We think it's very important that New Yorkers and our elected officials recognize that there are a multitude of people of faith whose religious tradition tells them that marriage equality is the right thing for the state of New York."
Religion informs some of the most vocal and visible opposition of the marriage equality bill in New York, including the New York State Catholic Conference and Democratic state senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister planning a rallying against the bill on May 15 in the Bronx. National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown is expected to attend the rally.
Diaz Sr. responded to Cuomo Tuesday by challenging him to take the marriage equality vote to the people in a statewide referendum.
"In every single state where the people have had the opportunity to decide if they want to change the definition of marriage from a man and a woman, they have all voted against it," said the senator.