Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NYC: Foes and friends of marriage equality organize separate rallies

Just last night, the New York State Assembly approved a marriage equality bill by a tally of 89-52.

While the outcome wasn't surprising (the legislative body passed a similar bill in 2007), debate on the floor was impassioned - moving at times and infuriating at others - with the final vote improving on 2007's tally of 85 for and 61 against.

Of course, the true test will come if and when the State Senate introduces its own version of the bill since - despite a slight Democratic majority, Governor David Paterson's increased visibility on the bill, support from both US Senators from New York, AND backing from Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith - it's uncertain if there are enough votes to pass it.

Surprisingly, in the face of the State Senate dragging its feet on the issue, there have been few public demonstrations or rallies to prod them in the right direction (compared to - say - the spate of press conferences and gatherings following the impact of the weddings that took place in San Francisco in 2004, or the couple of Join the Impact rallies in the wake of passage of Prop. 8 in California).

I had heard rumblings that a few organizations were doing something this weekend but couldn't find specific information... until yesterday. From a press release:
This Sunday, May 17, stars of Broadway and Television will come out to perform and rally in support of love, peace and marriage equality. Please join us from 5:00pm - 7:00pm ET on Sixth Avenue at 44th street in Manhattan as we let the sunshine in.
Yes, kiddies, bring your jazz-hands, because it will be a very Broadway event. As a matter of fact, the entire cast of HAIR will be on scene to sing "Let the Sunshine In" (will they get naked?) and Broadway luminaries such as Audra McDonald and Cheyenne Jackson will make appearances too. Oh, and Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell, sponsors of the marriage equality bills on each side of the legislature, will make impassioned speeches to those gathered. I hope there is a nice turn-out despite the last minute official announcement. It was put together by Broadway Impact and backed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, the Civil Rights Front and Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS.

Of course, this is not the only marriage-related rally on Sunday.

A number of homophobic Hispanic evangelical preachers, led by State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., are urging clergy and parishioners to stand against same-sex marriage by demonstrating outside Governor Paterson's New York City offices earlier in the day.

That one is scheduled to begin at 1pm and take place at 633 Third Avenue (btwn. 40th & 41st Streets).

Diaz organized a similar rally in September but it was a big flop.
Still, Diaz has been trumpeting this march to anyone who will listen and, unlike past events he has organized, this one seems to be getting mainstream media play, so I expect a big turn out.

In 2004, Diaz drew an estimated 5,000 people to rally against marriage equality and in support of President Bush outside the Bronx Courthouse. At the time, national anti-gay organizations joined the call and pured resources into the event, busing parishioners and clergy from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. If Diaz gets the backing from national organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, it wouldn't surprise me if the rally drew just as many people.

Back then, Diaz expressed anger in Spanish language media that the rally did not receive any mainstream media coverage. As far as I know the only English-language press coverage it received was from Gay City News. In terms of media presence, I have no doubt that he'll finally get his wish on Sunday.

If it's a large turn-out (say 5,000+ people) watch him beam on television on the nightly news. If it's a small to medium turn out (say 500 to 2,500), watch him beam anyway and inflate the numbers. In either case, I will be there to see how it goes down.

But don't be fooled! Diaz might draw a specific segment of the Hispanic community but he is on the losing end of history. Four recent polls indicate that Latinos in New York actually back marriage equality for same sex couples (check this out as well as this).


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