Friday, May 12, 2006

A City Hall Meeting on Marriage

In A political experience (March 25, 2006), I shared thoughts about a meeting I attended the day before at Gracie Mansion on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The meeting, which was called by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, drew some criticism when it turned out that the Director of the state's most-powerful LGBT advocacy organization, Alan Van Capelle of the Empire State Pride Agenda, was asked not to attend.

This morning at a meeting called by Speaker Quinn and held in the Red Room at City Hall two things were different: The Empire State Pride Agenda was present and Mayor Bloomberg was not.

Officially, this was not a follow-up to the Bloomberg meeting but rather to a March 16th Washington, DC meeting that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton convened, which included the Democratic Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, which Alan also attended.

Compared to the Bloomberg meeting, there were also a greater number of people in the room (about fifty people) which included staff members from Senators Clinton and Schumer's office (if not Clinton and Schumer themselves) - and a staffer from Congressman Jerry Nadler's office - along with Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymembers Danny O'Donnell and Deborah Glick, Congressman Anthony Weiner, political consultants Emily Giske and Ethan Geto, representatives from some of the city's political clubs (Gary Parker, Dirk McCall, Brad Hoylman) and LGBT organizations (Richard Burns and Myriam Young from The Center, the great Matt Foreman of NGLTF, Adam Francoeur from Immigration Equality, Joe Tarver and Desma Holcom from the Empire State Pride Agenda, Phyllis Steinberg of PFLAG NYC, Ron Zacchi and Cathy Marino-Thomas of Marriage Equality New York, and Daryl Cochrane from HRC). There were also representatives from the Log Cabin republicans and the organizers of the Staten Island pride parade.

Though not necessarily extensive, there seemed to be obvious efforts to reach to some people of color organizations and leaders including George Gates from People of Color in Crisis, Joey Pressley from the New York AIDS Coalition, Tokes Osubu from Gay Men of African Descent and the National Black Justice Coalition, Charles Rice-Gonzalez from BAAD! as well as I.

Discussion mostly centered on proposed federal legislation to amend the United States Constitution to ban marriage rights for same-sex couples which Senate Majority Leader Bill "M.D." Frist is planning to bring up for yet another vote, since everything else seems to be failing to energize the Republican vote in the upcoming elections.

On the table was also the upcoming May 31st New York State Court of Appeals hearing on whether refusing to let same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses violates state constitution for which several briefs have been filed arguing for the right to marry (over at the Gotham Gazette, reporter Andy Humm has a great breakdown of what is at stake in "Same-sex Marriage Show Down").

I'm proud to say - in a historic first - some of the New York City Latino LGBT grassroots organizations recently joined one of the friend-of-the court briefs filed for the hearing which was submitted by the Empire State Pride Agenda. These include Las Buenas Amigas, the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA), the Gay and Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization (GALDE), Latino Gay men of New York, Mano a Mano and Primer Movimiento Peruano.

Funny, the court hearing is two weeks away and yet - unless you have followed the issue - not that many people out in the street probably know about it. Let's hope that the court, which could rule as early as this summer, will come down on the right side of history.

UPDATE: "Quinn convenes amendment confab" (Gay City News, May 18, 2006)

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