Professors Goldberg and Franke on Decisive Defeat of Same-Sex Marriage Bill by New York State Senate

Professors Goldberg and Franke on Decisive Defeat of Same-Sex Marriage Bill by New York State Senate

Media contact: Nancy Goldfarb, 212-854-1584, [email protected]

New York, Dec. 2, 2009 – Today the New York State Senate voted 38 to 24 against a bill that would have extended full marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state of New York.

The senators engaged relatively quickly in an historic debate on the bill (S66003) sponsored by Senator Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, who is gay; he pleaded with his colleagues to give him the same rights that the rest of the people in the chamber take for granted.


Suzanne Goldberg, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic: “With just eight senators standing in the way of marriage equality becoming New York's law, we can see that equality is within sight, even if it is not here yet.  At the same time, today's vote injures not only lesbian and gay couples but also the many New Yorkers who want their home state to embrace justice for all, not selective rights for some.

Katherine Franke, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law:  "While the Senate vote fell short of passage of the marriage equality bill, it was by no means a loss for this important civil rights cause.  It is unusual for paradigm-shifting civil rights legislation to pass the first time it is introduced, and that fact that it has the robust support of the Governor, has already passed the Assembly three times, and came before the full Senate, receiving 24 votes in favor, is itself a sign that marriage rights for same sex couples have come of age.   So too, it is worth noting how many Senators went out of their way to explain their "yes" vote as connected to other important civil rights struggles for African Americans and other racial minorities."

Just a few weeks earlier, on Nov. 10, the future of same-sex marriage collided with the political process in Albany as the State Senate delayed a vote on this bill. Gov. David A. Paterson added the bill to the agenda for an emergency session, and supporters lobbied intensively for an immediate vote.

Last month Maine became the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a referendum, which had supporters of the NY bill worried. Only three state legislatures nationwide have voted, without the intervention of the courts, to approve same- sex marriage.                                       

To reach Professors Goldberg and Franke after hours, call Nancy Goldfarb at 646-413-1328.


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