Rev. Emily C. Heath

Marriage: Live Updates From NY Statehouse

Filed By Rev. Emily C. Heath | June 23, 2011 8:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Albany, live updates, marriage equality, New York, same-sex marriage

Note from Bil: Rev Emily Heath is spending the day in Albany to monitor New York's proposed legislation to legalize marriage equality. She'll be sending in dispatches throughout the day and this post will be updated as news comes in.

8:47am - On way to Capitol now. Not much happened in the night except one advocacy group erroneously tweeted that the bill had made it out of Rules. That false information spread like wildfire over Twitter and was even picked up by some equality groups. A simple check with the official Senate feed showed it wasn't true. There is also word that Republicans fear being called into special session By Cuomo if they don't have a vote being ending this session.

9:17am - Very little activity at Capitol. At this time yesterday anti-equality supporters were already lining the halls on the third floor. Right now we see next to no one. Both parties go into caucus at 10. Senate back in session at 11.

10:14am - Anti-equality folks starting to arrive and fill hall outside Republican conference. Very few of us here. Marc Solomon is here from Freedom to Marry, waiting with us to see what Sen. Skelos will say when he comes out.

10:45am - I just had a good, sincere discussion with a bill opponent. He asked if it was true that LGBT people have generally been sexually traumatized. I told him I'd never been. He asked if I had a broken family. I said my parents have been married fifty years. He seemed genuinely surprised and like he was considering things. We shook hands and parted ways.

More updates after the break.

10:50am - We are outnumbered about ten to one in the halls. But the vote is rumored to be coming at 1 or 2am, so folks are pacing themselves. If you come, sit in the gallery and be a visible reminder to senators.

11:09am - Pastor preaching in hall that LGBT people die 20-30 years younger. Also saying every LGBT person he has met has had sexual trauma.

They passed out sheet music and started to sing Amazing Grace. I sang along. They didn't offer me sheet music, but I knew the words anyway.

11:40am - There is news that there will be a lengthy GOP conference later today to deal with when/if marriage bill will come to a vote. Nothing definite yet. Trying to verify.

11:48am - It's being reported that the rent issue is still not settled. It may be a while.

12:23pm - Senate at ease. Going into Rules at 1.

1:29pm - Senate back in session. Sen. Silver hoping for vote on rent/tax issue in late afternoon or early evening.

1:40pm - A man started shouting angrily, "Sexual promiscuity kills!" In some strange way doesn't that support equal marriage, at least in its ideal form?

2:40pm - Protesters holding up strong in the halls. Lots of great young activists. They look exhausted but are pushing themselves hard. I'm hearing a lot of them want more updates about what's going on. We have been seeing some staffers from various groups rush tirelessly all day from place to place. Others sitting in the senate lobby seemingly waiting for some news.

2:43pm - Hearing unsubstantiated reports that bill is now in GOP conference. Trying to verify.

2:50pm - NY Senate feed confirms that since the session is not open, we have no definite information about whether or not the marriage bill is being conferenced right now.

3:09pm - Dear pro-equality folks: I appreciate the sentiment but does our chant have to be set to the Barney theme song?

3:34pm - More pro-equality activists arriving. There is a lot of energy, but things feel a little disorganized. No clear organizer here, and with no clear leadership the new folks are actively engaging with opposition. There has been some verbal confrontation, which is not helping our cause. People who have been here all week are trying to step in when things get heated. Troopers look frustrated.

3:39pm - AP is quoting Jay Carney that Obama will not make any "new declarations of position" tonight at New York City fundraiser.

3:57pm - Yesterday the Senate named corn the official state vegetable. Today an anti-equality guy is walking around with a sign that says, "Corn is not a vegetable! Stop redefining things!" It also has a no equal marriage sign on it.


4:11pm - GOP out of conference. Rules at 4:30. No other information yet.

4:15pm - Cursory reading of Rules agenda an I don't see marriage there. That doesn't necessarily mean it won't come up.

5:14pm - Senate is at rest until 6:45pm.


5:22pm - The word is we are "at ease" while some bills are being printed. I would not take that to mean the marriage bills yet. There's a lot of other business first.

6:25pm - Cuomo still just saying, "cautiously optimistic".

6:45pm - Walking back into Capitol with another Senator and he told us that Sen. Ball has officially declared his "no" vote.

6:55pm - Our side chants "civil rights". The other sings "Amazing Grace". I believe the two actually have a lot to do with one another.

We are hearing rumors of 3am. Some think the vote will be held until after papers go to print.

7:20pm - Just noticed that state police are now carrying what appear to be tasers on their weapons belts. Perhaps a sign they are expecting strong reactions tonight?

8:34pm - The crowd outside the senate lobby.

8:36pm -

8:47pm - Final video, or, the reason you may never hear from me again.

8:57pm - More police are being called in. Pride groups urging our folks to go into "silent, respectful" mode.

9:14pm - That "silent" thing isn't panning out. Chants continue.

9:21pm - Senate back in session. Don't see marriage on agenda yet.

9:34pm - There is a full-on revival happening on the other side of the hall here. Beautiful singing, but not our supporters.

Senate at rest.

9:40pm - Rules committee meeting, but we are not on the agenda this time.

9:53pm - Senator Liz Kruger just passed a few of us and said, "We're going to get this done."

9:57pm - Shouts from equality folks: This is what democracy looks like.

10:04pm - This is how the rest of the night will go: Rules, Senate, Rules, Senate, etc. They are cycling rapidly.

Troopers are in the actual galleries tonight.

10:38pm - There are rumors that the Governor is in the building, but no evidence yet. We are seeing what we think are plain clothes officers.

10:46pm - I'm hearing reports that they are not getting agreement on rent numbers. That has to go through first.

10:56pm - Senate adjourning for night. Back in session at 10am.

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Just wanted to send out a huge thanks to the Reverend for her fabulous updating and keeping us all informed. Activists around the country are following this and your updates keep us informed. Thank you for fighting and for sharing the fight with those of us who can't be there. We will overcome!

Let me offer a hearty thank you as well. I would love to be in Albany today myself but have had my own issues to deal with these past few days. So, thank you very much for your efforts, Rev. Emily Heath!

Dieter M. | June 23, 2011 2:37 PM

hey people, you can actually watch the senate LIVE when they are not at ease, here is the link. just click on the icon on the right that says watch live... you can start the session and minimize your window so you cans till do other things while waiting and you will be able to hear when they start up agaain, then you can maximize your window to watch.

gosh, if that is the case (we die 20-30 years younger), look at how much they'll save on social security benefits. wait, i'm in my 50s...crap...i'm almost dead!

Thanks, Reverend, for your updates and the good work you're doing there. Following along from Ohio and hoping for a great outcome!

Thanks again, Rev. Emily, for being our eyes and ears in the vicinity of the chamber.

It's 1:44, and the live feed is not on - so if they've gone into session, they may not have gotten under weigh just yet.

Keep Posting!

I wish there was some word about the poison pill - but perhaps they have not worked out how far to go?

I am going to bet that the poison pill that the GOP conference or Rules committee adds will be designed to make the bill unacceptable to any but the most desperate Democrat. This way, they can say they brought the bill to a vote without any reasonable expectation of it passing.

I hope the Democrats who are committed to marriage *equality* pay close attention. If the Knights of Columbus want the right to not let their hall be sued for a gay wedding reception, that's already in the bill the governor sent to the Assembly and passed there last week (addressing, inter alia, the GOP version of the Methodist Pavilion at the Jersey shore - but not addressing the tax exemption aspect. Which is sad and will require a fix.)

I am wondering exactly what the final poison pill will look like, and I also wonder whether our *friends* in the Senate are bright enough to know when to vote against the bill because it is unacceptable. They have to read it before they vote.

Some people think that the bill should pass anyway and it can be fixed in 2013 - but I would predict that is highly unlikely to happen, since people will be so mesmerized by the glitter that they forget that they gave away rights they already had.

Sweet zombie Jesus! *sigh* I'm watching the Livestream feed. Out of curiosity, does the Senate stand at ease this frequently (and for such lengthy durations) under normal circumstances?

Thanks for the updates, Rev. :)

State government proceedings usually do not involve a lot of time on the floor of the chamber. A lot of time is spent in committee meetings, caucuses and conferences, and a lot of time is spent meeting with constituents and advocacy groups.

The legislature alsop typically only spends Monday through Wednesday in Albany for less than 6 months (January to mid-June).

Being at ease means that a session may resume later in the day, whils standing adjourned means either adjourned for the day or adjourned for the session.

In the waning days of a session, when the "controversial" bills come up, there are lots of times when either the Rules committee or the majority conference has to meet - and decide what to do off camera and out of sight, before coming back to chambers to actually do it.

You also need to leave time for the "three men in a room" to meet and make big picture decisions that have to be hammered out in committees and conferences before actually getting anything done.

I knew the general info (such as the difference between being at ease and adjourning altogether), but you helped me understand the normal duration and frequency, so thanks for that. I thought maybe they were just being nutty. The feed came back for less than five minutes a few moments ago, then the man with the gavel (whose name eludes me) and one of the Senators (whose name also eludes me) made some quick announcements and were gone again. They've done that a few times today (and yesterday) and it seems very ADD to me, so I thought maybe the whole "special session" thing was causing problems with their normal flow. Thanks again for the clarification. :)

Tina (IL) | June 23, 2011 4:22 PM

i like corn, it's so neat, it taste better than my feet. something like that, from the misognistic Charlie Harper on 2 1/2 men.

He's got a point. Corn is a grain (along with wheat, rice, etc.) and not technically a vegetable. Because it's just as often prepared as if it were one, though, the confusion persists.

Not that anyone's really going to care...

The man with that sign is gay, gay, gay..

I notice the tea party people protesting with the anti-equality folks. No surprise there. I think I'll save that pic for the next time I hear one saying they don't care about social issues.

Jay Kallio | June 23, 2011 6:01 PM

It's fine with me that they pass the marriage bill with the poison pills, we contest the unjust aspects in court later! They will not get to maintain unconstitutional laws. That's a perfectly acceptable way to go about it. That way the Republican electeds get to save face, and pass the buck over to the courts to maintain constitutionality. It is a long, drawn out fight no matter which way it goes. We have done it before and can do it again. That way many people in NY and surrounding areas will get to marry and derive the benefits that heterosexual couples are already reaping every day. There will be even more evidence that allowing same sex couples to wed works to societies' benefit, and other states will feel the momentum toward granting greater equality.

A win is a win, in the political world. That's the way it works. A defeat is a defeat, and I don't want Democrats voting against marriage equality!

Besides, in the private sector there is money to be made in providing goods and services to same sex couples in the marriage industry and more. How many people are going to turn away business on the basis of a couple being gay? It's a straw man issue. Easy to contest in court. Just get the bill voted on, already! Pass the bill!

Just so that you know - even the assembly bill conains prohibitions against bringing lawsuits for some of the poison pill provisions, though it may well be possible to attack some things on constitutional grounds anyway. I'd honestly rather have the bill be right in the first place.

If you want an analysis of the evolution of the poison pill up to last week, when the Assembly passed the version with "poison pill lite," see my blog essay at:

(BTW, I would not mind if any of my blog stuff ever appears as a "guest post" over here . . .)

A Rhode Island-like religious exemption is unacceptable, not for "political" reasons but because it would condone discrimination in critical areas. Here's what the GLAD blog says about it:

The (RI) religious exemption amendment goes much further in allowing religious charitable and educational organizations – such as social service providers, hospitals, and educational institutions – to treat legal civil unions, authorized under Rhode Island law, as invalid for any purpose.

Karen Loewy, Senior Staff Attorney for GLAD, said “This unprecedented exemption means a civil union spouse could be denied the ability to make medical decisions for her spouse in a hospital; it means that a math teacher at a religiously-based school could not get the same health insurance for his legally recognized partner that all other teachers receive."

I can't imagine the Governor or any of our advocates would agree to something this egregious.

Jay Kallio | June 23, 2011 8:55 PM

@Matt: In the scenario you describe in RI people would still need to have a health care proxy in effect to make medical decisions, no different from present day law here in NY, and now we cannot get health insurance out of nongovernmental businesses unless they specifically include us, so neither is a loss, and to be able to have civil marriage is still progress. Pass the NY bill, and we fight the particulars later! Incremental gains work, and accepting total defeat does not. It extends the time to full equality. We will never stop fighting for full equality until we have it, for all, and it will be achieved in steps, not in full. I applaud every victory, no matter how partial.

The state police have been carrying tasers all week, per reports I've read. It may be part of standard protest gear. At any rate, it's not just tonight.

I have been here three different times and have not seen them until tonight. Others haven't either.

Jay Kallio | June 23, 2011 10:40 PM

Considering that the Tea Party is there, and they have repeatedly shown up at political events bearing arms it might be a good sign for our side that troopers are bearing tasers. They are standard equipment for every day patrol in normal law enforcement operations. I'm not familiar with the practices for Capitol State Troopers. They can be dangerous if used on children, but when you consider the other law enforcement weapons that could otherwise be put to use they are painful, but generally less harmful in terms of long term injury. All State Troopers have been authorized to carry tasers since December 2010, which they prefer as a nonlethal tool over their duty firearm. In a very crowded area law enforcement cannot use firearms due to the danger of accidental injury to participants and other officers in close quarters, ricochet, etc. It is not always possible to subdue an assailant with sheer physical force if the needs arises, and when I was there two days ago none of those troopers on duty looked as though they were in good physical condition for riot control. No one should get hurt during this.

NY1, our local NYC news cable station, is reporting that the Capitol has not see this kind of intense emotional charge right there in the building since they started reporting from there, so these troopers are not used to dealing with this level of vehemence in close quarters. They may be getting very nervous.

I consider it more likely that the Tea Partiers and religious zealots could be the people they are concerned about, than our folks. Consider also that law enforcement receives information regarding threats of violence or death to legislators, so they may be acting on inside information, and have reason to fear violence. Please be very careful there. I wish I could be there, but could not afford to stay over.

I think the troopers are totally overwhelmed. They are for the most part very professional. But this has got to be wearing on them. The tasers made perfect sense to me. They may need more than physical subduing but no one would want to see guns get drawn if someone becomes violently angry.

I've been GLUED to your live blog all week. Thank you so much for keeping me updated on what's going on in Albany. While I don't personally care to get married, I understand that others do and that we should all be afforded that right. Your blog posts have been informative, respectful, hilarious. You rock.

keeping my fingers crossed, but having been disappointed before, i don't take anything for granted.

Ted Hayes Ted Hayes | June 24, 2011 7:51 AM

"Pastor preaching in hall that LGBT people die 20-30 years younger." I am in my 80s and my partner died at the age of 95 in 2009. Does that mean I will live until I am over 110 and my partner would have lived to the age of 125 if he hadn't been gay?

Thanks so much for doing all this work, Emily. You've definitely had the most popular posts this week as everyone follows along with you. :)