Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Full transcript of the Assembly debate on marriage

Yesterday we received the full transcript of the June 19 marriage debate in the Assembly that took place for about three hours before the chamber historically voted to pass the bill by a vote of 85-61. Re-reading the debate is fascinating; some of the words spoken by our representatives are quite inspiring and can serve to remind us that we have some very strong and passionate allies in this movement. Below are some of the highlights from the debate.

Most of the speeches made were in support of the bill, but there are a few that were against. Reading these views can also help as we try to move more people to understand this issue, even though the arguments are sometimes nonsensical and frustrating.

I did not include a portion of Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell's speech because it's best read in its entirety. It is a passionate, well-reasoned and at times funny argument on why marriage equality is necessary. You can find it starting on page 65 of the PDF.

Here are some memorable clips:

Assemblymember Mark Schroeder (voted for):

Let's just review, simply said, summarize the historical quotes that I made. What was the reason for civil law marriages in New York State? It was to protect people. What is the reason for marriage equality, the bill that we are talking about tonight? It is to protect people...We, in the Assembly, were not elected within the confines of the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Nation of Islam or the Vatican City of Rome, we were elected to the New York State Legislature and a primary duty is to protect the people from injustice.

Assemblymember Brian Kolb (voted against):

But, I am also trying to articulate to you and the sponsors of this particular bill that I do feel threatened. I do feel harmed in terms of what you are trying to do with this particular bill because it is a direct challenge to me and how I was brought up and the belief that I have in God and what I believe that the Lord has given me in my heart.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick (voted for):

This is about access to civic institutions that provide protection. And, if we want to be clear about the sanctity of marriage, I can get married. I can go out and find somebody tomorrow, and I guess wait the applicable few days, and marry someone. It would have to be a man. That would be a sham. It would be an insult. It would not be upholding the sanctity of the tradition of people loving, caring and committed to one another through life, through the trials and tribulations that will befall many of us. I love my partner, and I want to be certain that if anything happens to me that she is fully protected. And we have done everything that we could legally, going to lawyers and tying up property to the extent that we have any, but there are things that we don't have access to because we are not able to marry. And, I am not young
enough to wait for this Body and the other Chamber to vote on 1,300 separate rights and responsibilities.

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton (voted for):

I will be casting my vote for this bill in memory of my wonderful brother, Steven Smith, who happened to be a gay man. When he died in 1994, his partner of 13 years, Greg, who happily thrives to this day, had no legal right to Steven's remains or to many of the benefits of Steven's adult working life, over 17 years. And that is but a small piece of the many ways in which gay couples are treated as second-class citizens.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi (voted for):

So what I am asking you, my colleagues, to do is light that board up green because we all took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of New York. I would ask you to light that board up green because the fairness and equality of our country is paramount. Don't tell me that I live in a country where Andy Hevesi, after being in a relationship for two years and has picked a person that he wants to marry can do it, but Danny O'Donnell who has been in a relationship for 26 years and has picked a person he wants to marry can't do it. Ladies and gentlemen, that is fundamentally unfair, and we are better than that. As a country, as New Yorkers, we are better than that. And, let me finally say, please light that board up green, vote in the affirmative for my kids. If one of my children happens to be gay, I want to make sure that they have the same rights and responsibilities that every other citizen of the country has.

Assemblymember David Townsend (voted against):

I believe that the individuals who are caught in this conundrum of a lifestyle that maybe to some seems foreign, to many of us we understand and appreciate it and can understand their love for each other, have a way to address it. It may be civil unions. There may be another issue that I am not aware of, but that can work.

Assemblymember Joe Lentol (voted for):

And Mr. Gottfried and, certainly, Ms. Glick can tell you that I have come a long way over the years that I have been here with respect to gay rights, with respect to how I feel about certain issues, and it's not because I flip-flop or change any position at all, it's because I have listened and I have learned.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (voted for):

In the months and weeks and hours leading up to today's debate, many people have asked, "Why are we doing this now? This bill isn't going anywhere in the Senate. Why are we doing it now?" Or, at least not tonight. Certainly, why are we doing this now? And the answer is very simple: That I believe, as I said at the outset, I believe this is the most important human rights issue facing this Legislature, and it is always the right time to take a stand for human rights.

Assemblymember Dede Scozzafava (voted for):

The easiest thing for me to do tonight, the politically easiest thing for me to do tonight, would be to vote no and go back to those individuals and tell them, "Hey, listen, but I'll support civil union for you." But a good friend of mine, on Friday, sat down and he explained to me why that did not provide him equal protection under the law. And what might be the easiest thing for me to do tonight isn't the right thing. These men and women in my community and throughout the State, my friends, deserve equal protection under the law, regardless of my religious belief, and that's why I am going to be voting in favor of this legislation this evening.

Assemblymember Teresa Sayward (voted for):

My God loves my son and as sure as I'm standing here tonight, this issue is certainly not one for me, or should be for any of us here, anything other than a civil rights issue, and I ask tonight that you give great consideration to the fact that I don't believe either Mr. O'Donnell or Ms. Glick had a choice in this life that they would be homosexual; for if they had, I'm sure they would have chosen the easier path. So, let's search our hearts tonight and do the right thing and vote for the civil rights and the human rights of all of the people that we represent and give them the right to marry the people that they love, just like I had the right 43 years ago to marry my husband.

Assemblymember John McEneny (voted for):

We are voting tonight, and I have never been more proud to vote, for true equality in our great American democracy, and it is good to see New York as a leader and not a follower.

Assemblymember Sandra Galef (voted against):

So today, you know, I really have a heavy heart. This is a very difficult issue. I actually wish that the issue of civil unions was before us; it is not. I think a lot of people have talked about steps. And sometimes we do need steps to make things better. It doesn't happen all at once, even though I know many people in this room, probably the majority of the people in this room, want it to happen very quickly. But I think, you know, given the fact that my district has a very strong belief opposing this legislation, that, as I said, I made a commitment to follow their advice on this particular issue that I polled last fall.

Assemblymember Jose Rivera (voted for):

Madam Speaker, Martin Luther King once said, "We are not free until everyone is free." Very interesting. What's taken place in this Chamber is that regardless of what happens to the other side or whatever happens, if nothing happens, at least we are standing up tonight in what, in my view, is what is right to do.

Assemblymember Jonathan Bing (voted for):

And I stand here to support this legislation today because I want to do something to make sure that whomever my daughter eventually decides to love, that she can have that relationship respected to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of whether it's a man or a woman that she decides to love. She deserves that respect. The law deserves to respect her in that way and it's my hope and expectation that 18 years from now when she can vote for the first time, that she will say to me, "What was the big deal about, why was there so much controversy about this legislation?" Because, at that point, we will have a law on the books that allows for same-sex marriage and that will be the norm in this country, not the exception.

Assemblymember William Scarborough (voted for):

I have been today listening very deeply, and I am strongly moved by a number of things that have been said, and I am strongly moved by the issue of equal protection under the law, and I
believe that those things have to be dealt with. I believe in the next year we are going to have to have a deeper discussion of exactly what we are doing. We are going to have to have a better explanation for the people of this State as to what we are doing and why, and I think that that is a task for all of us. I will cast my vote in the affirmative today, but I think we have much more to do.

Assemblymember Micah Kellner (voted for):

I'm the most junior member of this Body, and I have been here only about two weeks and I can say this is --no matter how long my tenure is here, this is probably the most important
vote I'll ever make.

Assemblymember Matt Titone (voted for):

The irony that the debate over the so-called sanctity of marriage is not lost on me when we consider that the debate lasted almost as long as Britney Spears' first marriage. I have my partner here on the phone, and he just asked me to marry him and my answer, Madam Speaker, is yes.

Read the full transcript here.


Paul said...

It's very disappointing to see that the majority of the dissenting opinions are referencing religion as a rationale for their vote against marriage equality. It shows a consistent disregard for the separation of "church and state" and only further adds fuel to the already hostile religious/political atmosphere.

Karen said...

I totally agree, Paul. What has happened to the seperation of church and state? How can these dissenting voters use religion as an excuse for voting 'no' against civil rights and sleep at night? Is their blind faith truly stronger than rational thought?