Marriage Equality NY Not Part of Cuomo Albany Huddle

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | Governor Andrew Cuomo will host what the New York Times is describing as a “confidential strategy session” with leading advocates of marriage quality in the State Capitol in Albany on March 9.

Joshua Vlasto, a spokesman for Cuomo, confirmed to the Times that the meeting is taking place and the governor will attend.

The newspaper said the list of invitees includes the measure’s two sponsors, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell and Senator Tom Duane, both out gay Manhattan Democrats, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Ross Levi, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Brian Ellner, who heads up the marriage equality efforts of the Human Rights Campaign, and Richard Socarides, the executive director of Equality Matters, a new LGBT-focused effort of the progressive watchdog Media Matters.

Guv opens up Capitol to elected officials, professional advocacy groups, but grassroots leader cries foul

“There they go again forgetting the grassroots, which they will need,” said Cathy Marino-Thomas, communications director for Marriage Equality New York (MENY), a grassroots group that has been working on the issue for a dozen years.

Asked whether that comment was on the record, she responded, “They didn’t invite me to their meeting, yes it’s on the record. We’re all supposed to be working together, I thought.”

In an appearance on Long Island last month, the governor, who has committed to getting marriage equality legislation enacted, said he planned to press for a vote on the measure before the Legislature adjourns in late June.

The heavily Democratic Assembly has approved equal marriage rights on three occasions since 2007. The Senate, now controlled 32-30 by Republicans, rejected the marriage equality measure by a 38-24 vote in December 2009, when the Democrats held a narrow margin.

Though all 30 Republicans in the Senate at that time voted no, the GOP majority leader, Dean Skelos of Long Island, last fall told the Log Cabin Republicans he would bring the bill before his conference and expected they would approve another floor debate and vote.

There are now 26 confirmed public votes in favor of marriage equality, all of them Democrats. Given the fervent opposition of Bronx Democrat Ruben Diaz and the two-vote Democratic deficit, advocates must find at least three Republican votes to achieve victory, and may well need more than that.

On February 8, MENY mounted its largest lobbying day ever in Albany, pulling out roughly 300 activists for meetings in 58 of the 62 State Senate offices. The Empire State Pride Agenda will host its annual lobbying day on May 10.

Mark Furnish, a spokesman for Duane, in an email message, wrote, “Senator Duane is very pleased that Governor Cuomo has called this meeting. He is looking forward to working with everyone together to make marriage equality a reality in New York.”

The Albany meeting comes one day after the govenor sat down with the state's Catholic bishops in the Capitol for their lobbying day. Opposition to marriage equality is a cardinal issue for the group. Controversy ensued when the governor declined an offer to meet with the bishops on Monday, later setting up a meeting when he learned they were staying in Albany through Tuesday.