Will marriage equality come to New York in 2011?

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Thursday December 16, 2010

The head of New York's statewide LGBT organization remains confident marriage for same-sex couples will become a reality in the Empire State in 2011.

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, told reporters on Thursday, Dec. 16, the election results put activists in a better position to advance marriage equality legislation in Albany. Anti-marriage state Sens. Bill Stachowski [R-Buffalo] and Frank Padavan [R-Jamaica Estates] lost their re-election bids. And Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo has said he would sign a marriage equality bill.

"I'm very confident in saying we are sitting here today in a stronger position after the election than we were before," said Levi.

The state Senate defeated a marriage equality bill last December, but New York recognizes marriages between same-sex couples legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos [R-Rockville Centre] said in October he would allow his Republican colleagues to vote their conscience on this issue. Levi welcomed this overture, but he stressed marriage equality remains a bipartisan issue. "I will say there's work to be done on both sides of the aisle-we do need both parties to stand strong and remember this is literally a life or death issue," said Levi.

Five states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex couples to marry Maryland could potentially become the seventh state to extend marriage to gays and lesbians, but the National Organization for Marriage and incoming Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire have said they intend to repeal the Granite State's marriage equality law.

Levi highlighted a New York Times poll that showed an estimated 58 percent of New Yorkers support marriage equality. He also pointed to a 2007 New York State Comptroller's report that concludes the state's economy loses roughly $184 million a year because same-sex couples cannot marry.

Meanwhile, "View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actress Julianne Moore, designer Kenneth Cole, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe and others have appeared in the Human Rights Campaign's "New Yorkers for Marriage Equality" campaign Marriage Equality New York members also plan to travel to Albany in February to lobby legislators on the issue.

"Our community will be holding everybody's feet to the fire," stressed Levi.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.