Thursday, December 04, 2008

Update: Same-sex marriage bill not in the pipeline as NYS 'Gang of Three' end stalemate

A flurry of activity emerged today regarding the so-called Gang of Three.

For those of you not up to date: After Democrats gained a slight majority in the State Senate in the November elections, three Democratic Senators threatened to vote with the Republican minority and not to support Democrat Malcom Smith as majority leader come January unless they got some needs met and their egos stroked.

For State Senator (and Pentecostal minister) Ruben Diaz, Sr. the needs included blocking Smith from bringing a same-sex marriage bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

The Albany Times-Union Capitol Confidential Blog and The Politicker have some details but Elizabeth Benjamin at the NY Daily News has the break-down ("Details of a Leadership Deal").

On the possibility of a bill granting marriage rights to same-sex couples in New York State:

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage will not be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote this year [Ed. note: I assume Benjamin means 2009]. Smith will announce that he does not believe the measure has sufficient votes to pass - a statement that is at this point undoubtedly true, although it's unclear how long that will last if, as Democrats are hoping, the prospect of being in the minority leads to mass GOP retirements.
Which sorta explains the comments that Azi got from Diaz over at The Politicker:

Ruben Diaz Sr., who previously said he wouldn’t vote for any leader that would allow a same-sex marriage bill to be brought to the floor for a vote, told me, “I, Senator Diaz, am relieved everything is going to be OK.”

When asked if that meant he got the assurance he was looking for regarding same-sex marriage, he answered, “I am telling you I am happy, that I am satisfied that everything will be OK.”

According to Benjamin, egos were stroked as well. Here is what the three will get:
  • Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. will be the majority leader while Smith is president pro tempore.
  • Sen. Carl Kruger... will chair a pumped-up Senate Finance Committee.
  • Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. will chair the Aging Committee.
Politics! Oh, so fresh, and oh, so clean!

I know that dirty deals and power plays are part of the process and I'm not necessarily surprised that there were concessions.

What worries me is the reports that Espada will grab the majority leader post (not Smith, who would get a 'president pro tempore' designation). What does that mean if true? Smith was on track to introduce the bill if he became a majority leader and still might down the line. Espada has been gay-friendly until he joined the Gang of Three but - if he does become majority leader - will his pro-gay past matter? It's the unspoken and undisclosed deals and manoeuvres that give me pause. We'll keep an eye on things.

BTW, here's The New York Times City Room blog on how things might work out regarding the sharing of power:
Two people involved in the talks said that Mr. Espada will get the title of majority leader under the deal, though Mr. Smith would be the real leader of the Democratic caucus, with the title of president pro tempore. Still, the deal would make Mr. Espada arguably the most powerful Latino elected official in New York State.
Update 1: "Skelos concedes, Pride Agenda objects" (New York Daily News' The Daily Politics Blog)

Update 2: The Empire State Pride Agenda just sent this to me under the title of "Pride Agenda Responds to Senate Leadership Deal Rumors"...

This afternoon, additional rumors began circulating in the press regarding discussions about a timeline for marriage equality legislation during the State Senate leadership negotiations. We have been told several times by the Democratic Senate Leadership that marriage equality legislation will come to the Senate floor for a vote once we have enough votes to pass the bill. We have no reason to believe that this has changed.

In response to these recent rumors, we have released the statement below. We will continue to update you on this issue.

Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle in Response to Rumors About Marriage Equality and the Senate Leadership Deal

December 4, 2008 - “We are still awaiting the final details of the announced State Senate leadership deal. We would expect that any rumors that marriage equality was somehow a part of this deal are just that—rumors. Civil rights should never be a bargaining chip in any political leadership battle, and we would be outraged if the issue of marriage equality was even part of the discussions.”

Related: Espada majorty leader? (The Village Voice's Running Scared Blog)

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