VOLUME 3, ISSUE 344 | November 4 – November11, 2004
NY Bucks Conservative Trend
Democrats make modest gains in Legislature; state DOMA risk remote
While many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered New Yorkers were despondent over Pres. George W. Bush’s reelection and conservative gains in Congress, “LGBT people need to strongly separate what happened nationally from what happened in New York State,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.
“We are far better off in New York State than we were yesterday,” he said after the election.
New York is not as advanced as Massachusetts or Vermont in recognizing gay families, but it is one of only a handful of states that has not passed some kind of law banning same-sex marriages. The gay community has made incremental gains in recognizing gay partner rights and lawsuits for the right to marry are given high hopes of succeeding within the next couple of years. The results of Tuesday’s state legislative elections provide hope that this progress will not be reversed and may be advanced.
“There was a complete repudiation of the Conservative Party all over New York State,” Van Capelle said, citing the anti-gay party that often cross-endorses Republicans and provides them with their margins of victory. Democrats picked up at least two seats in the Senate, reducing the Republican majority there from 13 to 10 seats. Assembly Democrats increased their margin of votes over the Republicans from 56 seats to 58.
State Sen. Olga Mendez of East Harlem and the Bronx, who had switched from Democrat to Republican to enjoy being in the majority, was trounced by Jose Serrano, a City councilman and son of the Bronx Congressman of the same name. Democrat Diane Savino routed former Giuliani Youth Commissioner, Republican Al Curtis, for a Staten Island State Senate seat. Democrat Jeff Klein won the seat vacated by disgraced Republican Sen. Guy Vellela in the Bronx, and as Gay City News went to press, Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffman, a pro-gay Republican, was in danger of losing her seat to Democrat David Valesky.
Easily winning reelection were the out gay and lesbian members of the legislature, Assemblymembers Deborah Glick (D-Village) and Danny O’Donnell (D-West Side) as well as State Sen. Tom Duane (D-West Side).
Van Capelle noted that this was the first election since the Legislature passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act.
“We’ve proven that you’re not in jeopardy of losing your seat if you vote for LGBT rights,” he said, citing Republican Senator Michael Balboni of Nassau County who voted for the bill and was reelected by a 60-40 margin.
Van Capelle was also proud of the election of David Soares as district attorney in Albany, who in the Democratic primary defeated an entrenched incumbent Paul Clyne who had threatened to arrest ministers who performed same-sex marriages.
“It was an important coalition of with labor and social justice groups,” he said, also mentioning Soares’ support for repealing the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. On Tuesday, Soares beat the Republican-Conservative Roger Cusick 54-43 percent, with Clyne getting three percent on the Independence line despite his endorsement of Cusick in a last-minute attempt to stop Soares. The Democratic winner credited “young and old, black and white, and all the shades in between, straight and gay, women, labor and environmentalists” in his victory speech.
Continued progress in New York, especially in the area of gay relationship rights, Van Capelle said, depends on “going out and having conversations about our families. When we have face-to-face conversations and engage people, that’s the way things change.”