Monday, May 7, 2007

Dicker's presumptions, our facts

We realize that Fred Dicker's piece in the New York Post this morning was a column, but it still doesn't excuse the fact that it panders to stereotypes and myths about the issue of marriage equality in New York State. So, with all due respect, we'd like to point out exactly where (and there are many instances) the arguments put forth by Dicker's column do not hold water.

Before we go point-by-point, it's important to remind Dicker that Gov. Spitzer did not bow to a special interest when introducing this bill, as is implied in this article. Activists did not criticize Spitzer for "failing to include the proposal in a final 'to do' list of remaining legislative issues." It was simply a question put to the Governor by reporters who noticed the absence of a sexy news topic. However, when "activists" were quoted in these stories, only praise of the Governor's work for the LGBT community was given. Not criticism.

Point #1 - starting with the "hard facts"

"Polls have repeatedly shown a majority of New Yorkers oppose gay marriage..."
According to a 2006 Global Strategy poll, 53% of New Yorkers support granting same-sex couples the right to marry, while 38% do not.

Even if you look to different statewide polls, those in support of marriage equality ALWAYS outnumber those who are opposed, even if the number in support does not reach a majority. It is hard to find a single poll (much less repeated polls) where opposition to marriage tops 50%. And when given a choice (as NYTimes polls often do) between marriage, civil unions or no recognition at all, the highest percentage of respondents are in favor of full marriage equality.

Even more importantly when addressing the arguments put forth in this article, polls show that the vast majority of New Yorkers would not vote against a candidate simply because of their position on marriage equality.

"His action forced the Assembly's majority Democrats, who have avioided taking sides on the polarizing issue for years, to confront what is expected to be a bitter internal debate to reach a consensus 'conference position.'"

Not true. The Pride Agenda's marriage scorecard has rated where Assemblymembers and State Senators have stood on the issue for months now--long before Spitzer was elected governor. While it is true that many legislators have not made their position known, many have, and have done so as early as last year.

Point #2 - doing some research

"Many insiders predict a significant number of the Assembly Democrats - and possibly even a majority - will oppose the measure, led by conservative-oriented upstate and suburban lawmakers and a large number of African-Americans and Hispanics..."
Polling shows that suburban New Yorkers are even more progressive on the issue of marriage equality than their New York City counterparts. Looking at that same Global Strategies 2006 poll: both Long Island counties and Westchester yeilded a higher percentage of marriage equality supporters than the overall NYC total: 59% in favor- 39% opposed for Long Island and Westchester, versus 53% in favor - 39% opposed for New York City. This debunks Dickers presumption that marriage equality is a Manhattan-only movement.

For a less theoretical example, one need only look at the Feb. 7, 2007 Special Election in the 7th Senate District. Craig Johnson won a Senate seat in a district previously held by a Republican while being outspokenly pro-marriage equality. His support for marriage equality was specifically raised as a wedge issue by his opponent, but the tactic backfired badly. Johnson even mentioned his commitment to passing marriage legislation in his victory speech!

Dicker also has his facts wrong when it comes to African American and Hispanic NYS Assemblymembers and State Senators. Again, if Dicker were to look at our
marriage scorecard in reference to the members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, he'd find that of the 32 Assemblymembers in the Caucus: 15 openly support same-sex marriage legislation, 16 have unknown positions and only 1 is openly opposed. Looking at the State Senate, of the 12 Senators in the Caucus: 9 are openly in support (including Minority Leader Malcolm Smith), 2 have not yet indicated and only one is opposed. And finally, Lt. Governor David Paterson, former Senate Minority Leader and now the highest ranking African American elected official in New York State, has been a longtime supporter of marriage equality.

Point #3 - using more than one source

The only named source in the article is Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady), whose members number 42 in the 150-member chamber. He calls the marriage issue an "Achilles' heel" for the Democrat Majority, but given his tiny numbers of Republicans in the Democrat-controlled body, it is not surprising that he is grasping at straws… and Achilles’ heels. As stated earlier, polling shows that the marriage issue does not determine the votes of the vast majority of New Yorkers; they simply do not prioritize the issue to that level. We understand that Mr. Tedisco might like to believe otherwise, but the numbers simply do not back him up.

Simply put, there's no reason--given the facts and the reality of the situation--that marriage equality for same-sex couples should be divisive. In truth, it's already here. At the end of last week, the New York State Dept. of Civil Services announced open enrollment into the NYS Health Insurance Program for the same-sex spouses of state and local government employees. This means that now more than 800 localities in New York State will recognize same-sex marriages to some extent.

I don't hear any battle cries for anyone to be removed from office.

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