New York Senate leader supports marriage equality

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

An advocate for gay marriage equality has been chosen to lead the Democrats in New York’s State Senate.

The election in November gave the Democrats a 32-30 majority.

The Human Rights Campaign,  America’s biggest organisation dedicated to achieving equality for the LGBT community, welcomed the Senator Malcolm Smith’s new role as Senate Majority Leader.

The Democrats have a majority in the state Senate for the first time in more than 40 years.

Joe Solmonese, President of HRC, said:

“The Human Rights Campaign congratulates Senator Smith, who is a long-time, strong advocate for full equality for all New Yorkers, including the LGBT community.

“We further congratulate Senator Smith for refusing to make anyone’s civil rights a bargaining chip in negotiations over leadership of the Senate.

“We look forward to Senator Smith leading a new Senate that makes equal rights a reality for all New Yorkers, and, as we have said before, HRC is committed to continuing to working aggressively with Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, and supporters of equality throughout the state to win marriage equality in New York in this coming legislative session.”

As reported in December, the Democrats’ commitment to gay marriage was put under threat after three Senators refused to back Senator Smith as leader.

Senator-elect Pedro Espada Junior had wanted to split the roles of President of the Senate and Majority leader, with himself as Majority Leader and Senator Smith as pro tempore of the Senate.

It was also reported that Senator Smith was pressurised to agree that a vote on a marriage equality bill would not happen within the Senate in the coming year, which resulted in him receiving thousands of emails from people who support marriage equality.

The Democrats have promised legislation to legalise gay marriage if they took power.

However Senator Smith responded at the time to these claims at a Manhattan press conference, saying:

“I am announcing that the Democratic Members of the Senate have elected to cease negotiations on reorganisation matters with all three Senators as discussed both in private and in the press.

“We are suspending negotiations, effective immediately, because to do so otherwise would reduce our moral standing and the long-term Senate Democratic commitment to reform and to change.

“We believe that ultimately, we must do what is right for the people of the State of New York. Furthermore, real reform cannot and should not ever include limiting the civil rights of any New Yorkers.

“Those issues must be part of the legislative process. The members of this Conference have come a long way to consider the demands placed on the table.

“But frankly, we would rather wait two more years to take charge of the Senate than to simply serve the interests of the few.

“New York State cannot afford the type of self-serving politics being proposed and I will not be the leader to sacrifice what is right for New York for a quick political solution.”

Last week all 32 Democrats voted for Senator Smith. He is the first African-American to become NY Senate Majority Leader.

In June 2007, the state assembly voted with an 85-61 majority in favour of a marriage equality bill.

It later stalled in the Senate.