With marriage equality in New York state closer than ever, and with the end of the legislative session now just days away, all eyes are on the Empire State as we wait with optimism that New York will become the sixth state to legally allow marriage for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday, formally introduced a bill in the Senate that would bring marriage equality to New York. What remains to be seen is whether the bill will be brought to the floor for a full-Senate vote before the legislative session ends on Monday, and if so, whether the bill can obtain at least the required 32 "yes" votes that are needed in order for the bill to pass.
At the beginning of this week, only 29 "yes" votes were confirmed (that's 29 of the 30 Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate; Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) is the only Democrat opposing marriage equality). Then, on Tuesday, Sen. Roy McDonald (R-Saratoga) became the second GOP senator in as many days to say that he would be voting "yes" on the governor's proposed marriage equality legislation. It was a dramatic reversal from his earlier position on the matter, and with his support, the number of senators confirmed to vote "yes" is now at 31. (Republican Sen. James Alesi (R-Monroe) has also indicated that he would vote "yes.")
As was first reported by the New York Daily News, Sen. McDonald's change of heart on the matter of marriage equality cannot be explained any better than by McDonald himself:
"You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing," McDonald, 64, told reporters.
"You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing.
"I'm tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I'm trying to do the right thing, and that's where I'm going with this."
Well, we think that's just great, and with these words, a man who's been described as a conservative upstate politician, a soft-spoken grandfather and a former steelworker became something of an unlikely Internet hero for advocates of marriage equality. His remarks have lit up the blogosphere and continue to earn McDonald all kinds of appreciative comments via his Facebook page.
So, hearts and minds do change. And no, just because a person identifies as "Republican" and "conservative" does not imply that he or she also opposes equality. This is a myth, once again disproven by Sen. McDonald.
With time running out in the current legislative session, let's hope that marriage equality legislation is moved to the full floor of the Senate for a vote and that when that time comes, at least one more senator will see fit to vote in support of equality - so that all of New York's loving and committed couples can take care of and be responsible for each other. After meeting with a handful of undecided Republican senators earlier this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself an outspoken advocate for marriage equality, says he feels confident the Senate will have more than the required 32 "yes" votes that are needed for marriage equality legislation to pass. Gov. Cuomo continues to meet with Republican senators as well.
Of course GLAAD will continue to keep a close eye and update you on what's happening in Albany. We also urge the media to continue reporting on the significance of what marriage equality will mean for New York's loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. To call your senator and ask that they vote "yes" in support of marriage equality legislation, please click here to partner with the Empire State Pride Agenda.