Renewed Fight For Gay Marriage In NY Hits Suburbs

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Lady Gaga on stage on Long Island this weekend, actors Kevin Bacon, Julianne Moore and Kyra Sedgwick on video and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Albany are headliners in New York’s growing push to legalize gay marriage, a fight that may already be won thanks to shifting voter sentiment and a concerted, disciplined campaign.

New Yorkers opposed to gay marriage are being swamped by younger people who support it, while polls seem to show a new tactic by advocates is working in the suburbs and upstate, the more conservative region where the issue will be won or lost.

Five states, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia have approved gay marriage laws. New York has always been a goal of advocates because of its size, high profile and unparalleled media presence.

“A win in New York will provide significant momentum for the movement nationally and, quite frankly, internationally,” said Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign, working for same-sex marriage. “New York is very significant.

The organized effort under Cuomo is a turnaround from the surprising 2009 defeat in the state Senate, which fell eight votes short of passage in the 62-seat chamber after strong approval in the Assembly. Back then, advocacy groups operated more independently, sometimes alienating as many lawmakers and their constituents as they won over.

But those votes were just a prologue to today, said Bruce Gyory, a political science professor at the University at Albany who analyzes voter trends.

Despite failing in 2009, the debate demonstrated some of the Legislature’s greatest displays of eloquence — personal stories of sons and daughters denied the joys and rights of marriage — and did what is rare in Albany: It changed votes.

“In my view, that wasn’t an isolated phenomenon,” Gyory said. “That debate has been replicated hundreds and thousands of times over the Internet, emails and coffee klatches and over glasses of wine in New York’s suburbs that has rapidly changed — at an accelerated pace — public opinion.”

Advocates for gay marriage learned the power of personal persuasion over in-your-face parades long ago. Fred and Heidi Perkins held a letter-writing open house at their Plainview home in Nassau County, a key area for the issue and where their gay son wants to be married. They said 70 neighbors showed up.

“My son getting married isn’t really affecting anyone else’s marriage,” said Heidi Perkins, 50, a market researcher. “It’s sad.”

“We want to dance at our son’s wedding,” said Iris Blumenthal, 68, of Syosset, Nassau County, and another longtime advocate. “I would love if these senators were in my shoes. What if their child came out as gay and said they wanted to get married?”

A year ago, Gyory’s analysis showed support for gay marriage was rising 1 to 2 percent a year nationally as opposition declined by the same amount. But, he said, national polls now show support climbing at 2 to 4 percent a year, led by coastal states including New York.

Even white Catholics — another major element of New York’s suburban and upstate vote — reported rising acceptance in Pew and Gallup polls.

In New York, the Siena College poll this month found a new high for support — 58 percent. The poll showed reliable voters 55 and older were divided on the issue, not strongly opposed, and that the influential independent vote favored same-sex marriage. On April 14, a Quinnipiac University poll found opposition continued to fall toward 30 percent.

“I think at the point you cross 60 percent and approach 2:1 levels of support, the opposition loses its critical mass,” said Gyory, a former aide to three New York governors.

And politicians poll such issues extensively within election districts, something public polls haven’t yet done.

“You clearly don’t want to be behind it,” Gyory said. “This is a runaway freight train in the suburbs.”

Upstate and suburban Republicans in the Senate also might prefer to dispatch the difficult issue this year rather than in 2012 when they will be up for re-election, especially with a popular governor taking a lead role.

“This is an important issue for the administration, and the governor is committed to working with New Yorkers to get the marriage equality legislation passed,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger.

That drew some rare public criticism of the powerful Democrat. Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Bronx minister, said the new effort made its first mistake.

“I am deeply offended that during this Holy Week, which is a most sacred time to millions of New Yorkers, Gov. Cuomo is working hard to mobilize elected officials to legalize homosexual marriage,” Diaz said of the announcement made in The New York Times between Passover and Easter to promote “a radical agenda.”

Republican Sen. Thomas Libous, the deputy majority leader, has represented his district of Broome, Chenango and Tioga counties for 23 years. It’s whiter, older, slightly less wealthy and more church-going than statewide averages, making it prime turf. He opposes gay marriage.

“I know there are some polls that show things are changing,” Libous said, emphasizing that he’s not speaking for the conference. “I know my constituency, particularly my base, is very much against it. At the end of the day, if a measure like this comes to the floor, it really is up to each individual member.”

But for state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, whose endorsement is important to Republicans, same-sex marriage is “a line in the sand.” Long notes one finding lost in much of the public debate: Just 6 percent of New Yorkers in this month’s Quinnipiac poll said same-sex marriage should be the top issue in Albany.

“This is nothing but a political issue,” Long said. He said gays are part of a “very well-heeled community” that can achieve its rights under existing laws through the courts and contracts.

“No one in the Conservative Party wants to take away any rights away from anybody,” Long said. “But nobody wants to see the institution of marriage destroyed to give more rights to some people.”

What are your thoughts on gay marriage? Tell us in our comments section below...

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • G!LL

    high poppulation is a Curse….. So let tmem get merried.

  • tony

    Sorry to be so old fashioned. Marriage seems best reserved for heterosexuals. Gays ought to be allowed to create binding civil unions. Most laws regulating marriage begin with a purpose, and that purpose is usually stated as a familial benefit, often related to children. It may be true that some gay couples are raising children. It is also true that single parents raise children. My own belief is that boys and girls are best served by having both an active, loving mother and father. So, that’s not really a religious belief. So you can damn me for my opinion, but if you agree with me and are part of the majority, then the governor ought to be told in no uncertain terms. I think this is all about making gay voters happy.

    • Auburn Dale

      Your own belief is not the same as a legitimate GOVERNMENTAL reason for banning gay marriage. I’m still waiting for somebody to identify a SPECIFIC straight couple whose marriage has suffered SPECIFIC damage due to a SPECIFIC gay couple wanting to get married.

      • Paul Morgan

        Auburn, don’t muddy the water with your logic and your facts!
        this is about simple minded people with simple minded bigotry and blatant ignorance.
        reason, logic and FACTS have nothing to do with their opposition to recognizing the rights of fellow American citizens. hell, most of them don’t even realize the difference between CIVIL and RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE!!!!

  • NY Chris

    This has nothing to do with Jesus Christ! This has to do with a group of people that want the same legal rights as married couples. Civil Unions could have achieved this if they tailored the laws to include these people but they didn’t. So now we have this big Fing mess rammed down our throats.

    • Nora

      Shame on all of you shame on you

  • jaypee

    Andrew Cuomo I am ashamed of you! What type of Catholic are you?

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    If a Bruce and Bob can get married and play hide the sausage under the law what is next man and dog..

  • Trishe

    I don’t care.

  • Jets Fan

    This is all about money and nothing else. They have civil unions, but they want the benefits of a family that was designed for the raising of children and protecting women who gave up careers to raise their family. They want equal, but they are not equal in the true sense. since a gay couple cannot conceive a child. Thus, they can never be a true nuclear family no matter how hard they try.

    • FireIceNY

      Using your logic then straight married couples who cannot conceive or do not want children should not be able to legally marry??

  • HooDatIS?


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  • Garth

    Although not gay myself, I still think that it is up to reasonable consenting adults to decide which sex they will marry, and no church, pope, rabbi, or pastor should decide for anyone. If they are allowed to, it could be deemed brainwashing. Since the Catholic church opposes priests from getting married,although there are many who have numerous scandolous affairs over the years, and won’t allow women to be ordained as priests, I think the Catholic church needs to clean up its own affairs before meddling in others. Their thinking dates back to pre-historic times, except for monitoring currency exchange rates, donations etc. Seems the collection plate is always updated, but nothing else is………..

    • NY Chris

      Hey Garth,

      It’s not just the Catholics that are against it. Singling out the Catholic church to make your very weak point is utter BS. You speak about all the money they collect, well how much do you think it costs to maintain a building? Feed the poor, run programs to get meals and medications to home-bound Senior Citizens, Mobilize health care including gay people who were dropping like flies not that long ago from AIDS. St Claire’s hospital in New York City was nicknamed the AIDS hospital by people because these poor people with AIDS mostly junkies, and gays were cared for by the Catholic Health-care system.
      Yes, I was born Catholic, but i don’t go to church anymore. Heck I really don’t consider myself religious but your lame criticism on this Easter morning forced me to reply. Remember my friend about pointing the finger, you point it once it gets pointed back at you in ten-fold.

  • littlestar

    Sure ! Those who are intolerant of the opposite sex should be allowed to be married. After all, no one stops gangsters and politicians from getting married.

  • Lancelot Link

    Absolutely. They deserve to be as miserable as straight people. By all means let them get married.

  • nathan

    Yes gay people have every right to have miserable divorces, protracted custody battles, alimony and child support $ fights and all the other benefits of the blessing of marriage.

  • Brian

    Nobody wants to see marriage “destroyed”? Come on Michael Long! Something as deep and meaningful as a marriage shouldn’t be destroyed by outseide forces. If two men or two women getting married impacts YOUR marriage, then you and your wife should seek counseling.

  • David

    Being a true Millenial (I was born in 1979), I support same – sex marriage. I do not have any respect for a religion that wants to destroy the Constitution by denying gays and lesbians equal treatment under the law. These religious nuts are no different than white supremacists. Fortunately, America is slowly becoming more and more secular. I live in Dutchess County, which, until the 2008 election (when my county voted 53% for Obama), was more Republican. Thankfully, more and more liberals from NYC and Westchester are moving to Dutchess, which should make the county even more Democratic when the 2012 election comes.

  • DR

    I agree…they are prying the lock off of Pandora’s box, and this is going to open it wide open. It’s going to be hell to close it back. No one thinks of the long run, but they will in the end. Watch!

    • Fallingleaves2

      Amen to that,,, Jesus Chrise will have the last word, very soon too.

      • Fallingleaves2

        The lord Jesus Christ

  • Ryan

    Gay marriage is between two consenting adults, YOU MORON!!! It’s the priests that like little boys and girls.

  • Ellen

    Amen to that.

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