Friday, June 24, 2011

UPDATED: New York Marriage Equality Bill Signed into Law

Update (12:25am): Minutes before midnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Marriage Equality Act into law; gay couples can now marry legally in New York in exactly 30 days.

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The New York Senate has passed the Marriage Equality Act, which will allow gay couples to marry under state law, 33 to 29. The bill had already been passed by the New York Assembly, so it now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk.

New York will join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Washington, DC, in allowing gay couples to marry equally. With New York set to allow gay marriage, the number of gay people living in an equal marriage state will instantly double.

The vote ends an unpredictable week in Albany, as the Assembly extended its session by a full week in order to take up the marriage bill and other matters. It was speculated that there were 31 votes sealed for marriage, with one more vote needed to pass the bill. A similar bill had been rejected by the State Senate last year.

“What this bill will do is say that we’re family in a way that no other word can – and that word is family,” said Sen. Tom Duane before the vote.

Before the vote on the bill, an amendment to grant additional protections to religious institutions who do not wish to recognize gay marriages passed the senate 36 to 26; the crowd gathered in the gallery erupted in applause.

Sen. Stephen Saland (R) rose to introduce the amendment, thanking Cuomo for being “sensitive” to the balance between “religious freedom” and the “importance of equality.” He then prefaced his vote on the marriage bill.

“I have struggled over this issue, it has been an extremely difficult issue to deal with. Coming from a rather traditional background… my quandary was, all of the folks who wrote me, the thousands and thousands of letters and emails and thousands of telephone calls, they all asked me to do the right thing,” said Saland.

“My decision is going to disappoint a significant number of people, but I can say my intellectual and emotional journey has ended here today, and I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes within the definition of marriage. I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing.”

Sen. Mark Grisanti (R), also an undecided vote, spoke on the bill just before the vote, revealing that he would vote in favor, to more applause.

“I have studied this issue… I have struggled with it. Please know that in the past, what I was telling you and what I believed at the time, was the truth,” He said. “I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research, have an open mind, and make an informed decision based on the information before me. I cannot legally come up with an argument against gay marriage. I cannot deny a person the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Saland and Grisanti will go down in history as two men who supported equality when it mattered the most, when his was the vote that was needed to bring marriage equality past the finish line. Tonight’s vote is extremely encouraging to everyone who has worked hard for equality in the Empire State and beyond, and I am so excited that New Yorkers will be allowing gay couples to be treated equally under state law.

Friday, June 17, 2011

UN Approves Resolution Condemning LGBT Discrimination

Updated June 17, 2011 10:55am

The United Nations approved Friday a resolution condemning discrimination and violence against LGBT people, by a vote of 23 to 19, with 3 abstentions.

The resolution, introduced by the South African delegation, “[expresses] grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The resolution will call for the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, to conduct a study on discrimination and violence against LGBT people worldwide.

Click here to read the resolution in its entirety.

States supporting the resolution included: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

While resolutions are not legally binding, and thus the situation for LGBT people who are subjected to violence and discrimination around the world is not immediately improved, it is still a gigantic step forward in recognizing LGBT rights as human rights, and LGBT people as people who deserve equality and respect.

It is also a step forward for the US which, under President George W. Bush, did not back a similar resolution introduced by the French delegation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New York Assembly Passes Marriage Equality

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill allowing gay couples to marry, 80-63.

The bill now goes to the State Senate, where passage is uncertain.  Currently, 31 state senators - including all but one of the Democrats and two Republicans - have committed to supporting the legislation; 32 are needed to pass the bill.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has pledged to sign the bill if passed, and in fact has been an outspoken advocate and a strong lobbyist for the bill for several weeks now.

The Republican Caucus - which is the party in control of the State Senate - met for four hours today to discuss whether to bring the bill up for a vote: no decision has yet been made, and the caucus will reconvene tomorrow to discuss the matter further.

With a strong majority of New Yorkers supporting marriage equality, it is time for the Empire State to join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa in allowing gay couples to marry.  It is the right thing to do, and I strongly encourage members of the NY Senate to vote for equality when this bill comes to the floor.

If you live in New York, call your state senator and tell him or her to support equal marriage.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Chick-fil-A to Leave GWU

I have written before (here and here) about Chick-fil-A's ties to anti-gay organizations who seek to suppress and discriminate against gay people and especially gay couples.  Since finding out about Chick-fil-A's history of supporting such homophobic groups, I have kept my promise not to eat at the Chick-fil-A at J Street, the George Washington University's dining hall.

Many schools have kicked Chick-fil-A off campus following the media buzz surrounding the eatery's homophobic ties.  The George Washington University is now becoming the next school to eliminate Chick-fil-A from its menu, as students and faculty alike turn away from the hateful chain.  From GW Today:

The most obvious changes to J Street will be two new concepts: a diner, which will feature a made-to-order grill, ready-to-go breakfast and lunch combos, salads, daily specials and coffee drinks and will replace Wendy’s; and a “homestyle favorites” venue, which will serve traditional American comfort food, including meals like meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, as well as a daily Buff and Blue Plate Special. The homestyle favorites venue will replace Chick-Fil-A. (emphasis added)

Let's be clear: we don't know for a fact that GW is ditching Chick-fil-A because of its homophobic ties: to assert that beyond a shadow of a doubt would be more than misleading.  (More realistically, students are just sick and tired of eating greasy fast food every single day.)  But whatever the reason, Chick-fil-A is no longer going to have a presence on the GW campus, and that is categorically a good thing.

The GW community - a community that accepts and supports its LGBT students - should not be giving a single penny to a dining establishment that will just forward that money to anti-gay organizations.  This move brings GW one step closer to being the perfect school for LGBT students and faculty.  I applaud the decision to remove Chick-fil-A from campus.