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The rain outside the Metro Mall in Middle Village fluctuated between drizzle and downpour Saturday, but that did not stop advocates of same-sex marriage rights from canvassing what they considered to be a key battleground in a renewed push for reform in the state Legislature.
In 2009, with the support of then-Gov. David Patterson, the state Assembly passed the Marriage Equality Act, which was later defeated in the state Senate by a vote of 38-24. Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who had been a supporter of LGBT rights while on the City Council, voted against the bill.
“He said his constituents didn’t want it passed,” said Rich Murray of Marriage Equality New York as he spoke with shoppers in the senator’s district, urging them to write letters, make phone calls and sign petitions to let their elected officials know they support marriage equality.
The weekend marked the beginning of a new push for marriage equality activists, who are emboldened by a new political climate.
Murray cited a recent Siena Poll stating that 58 percent of New Yorkers support same-sex marriage. He also said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making the issue a priority and has placed staff members in charge of coordinating the various advocacy groups.
On Saturday, members of Marriage Equality New York, The Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry and the Log Cabin Republicans combined their efforts under the banner of New Yorkers United for Marriage.
“It’s the first time all the major lobbying groups have come together,” Murray said. “Cuomo wants to pass it before the summer recess.”
The political landscape in Queens may be more favorable this time around. Murray said he believes state Sens. Addabbo and Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) are two of the nay votes that could be turned around. A representative for Huntley said the senator had no comment to give for this article, and Addabbo did not respond to a request for comment.
In the last election, three Queens Senate seats went to newcomers who support marriage equality. Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) won the seat vacated by George Onorato, who voted against gay marriage, and Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) defeated Frank Padavan, who also cast his vote against marriage equality. Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) trounced Hiram Monserrate, an opponent of gay marriage, who ran for the seat again after being expelled from the Senate because of a domestic violence incident.
“It’s a new Senate and a new opportunity. The numbers are better this time,” said Jeff Friedman of the Human Rights Campaign.
“It’s really kind of exciting. New York is going to be the next state with marriage equality,” Murray said. “All we need is six votes. We just need a Republican or two or three.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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