Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Governor Spitzer's impending resignation and the chances for same-sex marriage in NYS

Over at The Advocate, Kerry Eleveld just posted an online only column on what an Eliot Spitzer resignation might mean for the prospect that the New York State legislature might pass a bill approving same-sex marriage in the next few years.

From the article:
If Spitzer were to resign, Lt. Gov. David Paterson would assume the responsibilities of governor, which most LGBT activists guessed would be the best-case scenario for gays and lesbians in the state. Paterson, a legally blind African American who represented Harlem in the state senate for nearly 20 years, has typically been ahead of his time on gay issues over the years.
During his gubernatorial campaign, Spitzer promised to support efforts to pass a bill granting marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state and to sign the bill into law if it reached his desk. The State Assembly already passed such a bill last year and - if Democrats were able to regain control of the State Senate which seemed within reach before yesterday's stunning revelations - expectations were that a Senate version would be introduced as early as 2009.

Ethan Geto, a well-known and out political analyst, tells Eleveld that Paterson "is somebody who would absolutely follow through on the commitment of the senate Democratic conference to pass gay marriage.”

I bring the article up because I'd long worried that Spitzer's plummeting popularity and increasing list of enemies in Albany would make the marriage bill a bigger battle-ground than it would already have been. A Spitzer resignation would leave the prospect of statewide same-sex marriage law alive in Patterson's hands and perhaps create a better environment for passage of the bill.

Of course, the assumption is that Democrats will gain control of the State Senate and, on that front, it's unclear at this moment whether a Spitzer resignation improves those chances or makes them worse.

Interestingly, should Paterson become Governor and Democrats regain the State Senate, the current senate minority leader, Senator Malcom A. Smith, would, of course, become majority leader. Which means that an African American governor and an African American Senate Majority Leader would take the lead in granting same-sex marriage rights to New Yorkers. Fascinating.

Of course, same-sex marriage is not all the Governor's office is supposed to advocate for and the true tragedy of yesterday's news is that a man who promised to fix what is seen as one of the most disfunctional legislative bodies in the country was brought down to size mostly by self-inflicted wounds right down to the end. One feels for his family as well as for the failed chance at meaningful reform in Albany (pictured above: NYS Lt. Gov. David Paterson and NYS Governor Eliot Spitzer).

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