Daniel Squadron, the twenty-nine year old freshman New York State Senator, is ready to take the lead on gay marriage in New York. Squadron said his goal was, "making this a law as quickly as possible," last night at a meeting of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn. He came to discuss strategy with leading activists and received plenty of feedback.
However, Squadron is not optimistic about passing gay marriage in the 2009 Senate session and believes that 2010 will be even tougher, due to the election year. "Looking at the members, it's hard to get to thirty-two votes," he admitted. Thirty-two is the magic number to pass a bill in the New York State Senate.
Squadron is not opposed to attempting in 2009, but said their were basically two strategies. Either, put the bill up in 2009 and risk a defeat or lay the ground work for passage later. "Just making the Senate Democratic is not enough, we need a fundamental change in Senate culture," Squadron explained. He believes that while the Senate is progressing, we aren't there yet.
Laying the ground work for victory, Squadron believes, involves showing marriage opponents "the ways it (gay marriage) leads to a traditional family structure." As well as explaining to members of the Senate the economic benefits Squadron added that, "real resources" need to be spent on changing people's minds in key districts and in the Senate.
Earlier this year I met with New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at his Manhattan office. He assured us that he'd have the votes to pass marriage again. The Assembly passed marriage in 2007, largely due to member Daniel O'Donnell, an Upper West Side Democrat. O'Donnell, a gay man, personally plead his case to members of the Assembly.
Squadron revealed that the heads of many New York gay political groups are urging caution. One even suggesting that an attempt in 2009 would "kill us."
I believe that ultimately, it's not worth risking defeat in 2009. A major defeat in the Senate would set us back five years or more. We could have those votes as early as 2011 or '12, the way the public support continues to move toward marriage. If we keep winning the hearts and minds.
Outside of LGBT issues, Squadron truly impressed me tonight with his knowledge and support of progressive taxation and affordable housing. He spoke out directly against the change in the term limits law, calling it "obviously undemocratic." I supported his opponent in the primary, but it looks like we may have a rising star on our hands.
Ryan J. Davis is on the Board of Directors of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, and all views reflected are his own. Ryan blogs regularly on his own blog.