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N.Y. 'gay marriage' battle could impact U.S.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
ALBANY, N.Y. (BP)--With the strong backing of the governor and the likely approval of the assembly, New York state is toying once again with legalizing "gay marriage," a move that observers both inside and outside the state say could have a monumental impact on the rest of the country.

Like 2009, the only thing standing in the way of the bill's passage is the Senate, which -- unlike 2009 -- is now controlled by Republicans by a thin 32-30 margin. The bill was considered dead when the GOP took control in November, but Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it one of his top priorities and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a socially liberal Republican-turned-Independent, has personally met with and tried to persuade GOP senators. There are 26 public "yes" votes for the bill, the Times-Union newspaper reported. Democrats control the Assembly, which has passed a "gay marriage" bill twice in recent years.

In the nationwide debate over marriage's definition, New York is one of the top prizes. It trails only California and Texas in population, and its influence on other states, particularly those in the Northeast, is huge. Most major television outlets are headquartered there.

Its population, 19 million, is more than the combined populations of the five states that have legalized "gay marriage."

"If New York falls, that means it will be much easier for other states to fall in the future," Jason J. McGuire, president of the New Yorker's Family Research Foundation, told Baptist Press. McGuire's organization opposes the bill and is touring the state on a bus as part of a "Mayday for Marriage" to educate people about the issue. It will end with a stop in Albany, the state capital, May 24.


Cuomo believes he has a chance to attract a few GOP votes in the Senate because his budget -- approved by both legislative bodies -- cut spending without raising taxes and was widely applauded by the GOP.

"I'm doing all I can," Cuomo said May 18.

He had pledged to get a bill passed "this year" and has called the topic a "pressing issue of basic fairness and civil rights." He's also said he is "cautiously optimistic." But he does not yet have the necessary votes in the Senate, and acknowledged that May 11.

"We don't want to bring up a bill in the Senate that would fail," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Polls show the state is divided. A NY1/YNN-Marist Poll of 941 adults April 25-29 showed that by a 53-46 percent New Yorkers believe marriage should "only be between a man and a woman." At the same time, the same poll showed 50 percent supporting "gay marriage," 25 percent backing civil unions and 25 percent saying there should be no legal recognition.

The National Organization for Marriage -- which played a critical role in defeating "gay marriage" in California and Maine -- has pledged $1.5 million to the effort, $500,000 of that on a TV campaign and $1 million of it for the 2012 election. The money would help support Democrats in 2012 who oppose the bill and help defeat Republicans who vote for it.


Much like it did in California and Maine, the National Organization for Marriage is putting religious freedom and public schools in the spotlight, warning that "gay marriage," if legalized, will be taught as normative. A 30-second ad shows pictures of children getting off a bus, sitting in a classroom, and one girl reading a book, "King & King." "Legalizing gay marriage has consequences for kids," the ad narrator says. "Massachusetts schools teach second-graders that boys can marry other boys. A California public school took first-graders to a same-sex wedding, calling it a teachable moment."

The ad is referencing two real incidents, one in which a second-grade class was read a book, "King & King," about a prince who "marries" another prince. In the other incident, a San Francisco first-grade class took a field trip to city hall in 2008 to help celebrate a lesbian wedding.

The ad further warns, "It's not just kids who will face consequences. The rights of people who believe marriage means a man and a woman will no longer matter. We'll all have to accept gay marriage whether we like it or not."

New York Democrat Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Pentecostal minister from the Bronx, is leading opposition to the bill, much like he did in 2009. He organized a May 15 march against the bill in his borough that saw several thousand attend in the rain. Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, attended.


"Do not accept the lie that redefining marriage will not affect you," Brown told the crowd at the rally. "It will."

The sports world has provided conservatives with evidence of Brown's claim.

In Canada, Sportsnet TV host Damian Goddard was fired May 11, the day after he stated his opposition to "gay marriage" in a Tweet. It is legal in Canada. In the U.S., Olympic gold medalist gymnast Peter Vidmar signed on as the United States' "chief of mission" for the 2012 London Olympics in April, but stepped down under pressure after news reports showed he had donated $2,000 in 2008 to help pass California Proposition 8 and appeared at two rallies in support of it. Prop 8 reversed a law that had legalized "gay marriage."

Additionally, New York Sen. Greg Ball, a Republican, warned that the bill would "force Catholic adoption agencies to close" because it fails to protect religious liberties, the Times-Union reported. That happened in Massachusetts, where Catholic adoption agencies chose to close rather than be forced to place children in same-sex families.

McGuire, president of the New Yorker's Family Research Foundation, said he believes the Senate is lacking the votes and that Cuomo is trying to appease his base after passing a GOP-backed budget. GOP senators need to realize, McGuire said, that 60-70 percent of their base opposes "gay marriage."


"A same-sex couple has the right to live as they want in the privacy of their own home," McGuire said. "What they don't have the right to do is to redefine marriage for the rest of society. We also believe that moms and dads matter, and that kids need a mom and a dad. I don't think that's bigoted, and I don't think that's hurtful to recognize what thousands of years and thousands of social science research studies have already indicated: Kids do best with a mom and a dad."

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Visit, or for more information about the "gay marriage" bill in New York.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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