Gov. Paterson Calls For Special Senate Session; Same-Sex Marriage Bill Left Out

June 21, 2009

The circus continues:

After two weeks of having no direct impact on the State Senate stalemate, Gov. David A. Paterson said on Sunday he would call the Senate to a special session this week, but would not include same-sex marriage among the bills to be considered, a move that stunned some of his key constituencies.


Mr. Paterson’s move does not doom same-sex marriage, but makes it much less likely to pass in the short-term. An aide to the governor said Mr. Paterson would still like to see the same-sex marriage bill come to a vote in the coming weeks, but Democratic leaders have resisted holding a vote unless it was assured of victory.

I really want all of these clowns voted out of office.


Warrantless GPS Tracking: Legal Or Not Legal?

May 28, 2009

gps satelliteDepends on the state, of course.


As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights – even if the drivers aren’t suspects.

Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.

That means “police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone’s public movements with a GPS device,” he wrote.

The above case reached the Court of Appeals after a man was tracked by GPS for five weeks before the Police retrieved the device and downloaded the information.  The geopositioning data was used to obtain a warrant to further a case that the man had been stalking a woman.

It was argued in the above case that the GPS tracking was an invasion of the suspect’s privacy because it ‘followed’ him into areas not in public view, like his garage. The court accepted the counter-argument, however, that the GPS data did not look into the garage but merely confirmed that he entered the garage, which clearly could have been learned from traditional, legal, and more costly visual surveillance.

In New York, however:

In its 4-3 ruling today, the state’s highest court overruled two lower courts and said state police should have obtained a warrant before placing a GPS device on Scott Weaver’s van for 65 days, reports the Associated Press. Weaver, who was convicted of burglarizing a store based in part on GPS data that placed him in its parking lot, will now get a new trial in his criminal case.

The state had argued that such high-tech surveillance is not appreciably different from standard visual surveillance methods, but the top court disagreed. “The massive invasion of privacy entailed by the prolonged use of the GPS device was inconsistent with even the slightest reasonable expectation of privacy,” writes Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in the majority opinion.

Well I agree with the Wisconsin court’s strict interpretation that GPS tracking probably does not provide data or information that could not otherwise be obtained through more costly manned surveillance, the ease and simplicity GPS tracking provides definitely makes me wary of giving the police carte blanche and a green light, and I think this same wariness is reflected in the NY ruling, which, on the surface, seemed to ignore certain facts.

NYS Assemblywoman Joan Millman Responds To My Letter On Marriage Equality

May 13, 2009

joan millmanOn April 30, I wrote my representative in the New York State Assembly, Ms. Joan L. Millman, to request that she support marriage equality in New York State.  Today I received this response:

May 13, 2009

Dear Mr. ————:

I am writing in response to your correspondence requesting my support for A.7732/S.4401, legislation that would allow individuals to marry regardless of their sexual orientation, introduced by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell and Senator Thomas Duane.

I was proud to vote for the Marriage Equality Act when it came before the Assembly in 2007 and am equally as delighted to have been able to vote again last night for this necessary legislation.

As you are aware, there are more than 1300 allowable rights that accompany a marriage contract, rights that should be naturally available to couples without possessing a certificate of marriage. As we learned 55 years ago, separate is not always equal. It is my hope that this Act will pass the State Senate so that all who choose to may enjoy the rights and privileges associated with marriage, as sanctioned by the State of New York.

Thank you for your correspondence and sharing your views with me.


Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly


Thank you for your vote Ms. Millman!

As I noted earlier, the Assembly passed the above bill 89-52. The date when this bill will be heard in the Senate – where the vote will be much closer – has not yet been determined.

As you may remember, I also wrote and received a favorable response from my State Senator, Velmanette Montgomery.

Find out who your New York State Senator is and write them now.

Ad Supporting Marriage Equality Begins Airing Upstate

May 13, 2009

The Empire State Pride Agenda has begun airing  an ad in the Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany television markets aimed at putting a human face on the marriage equality battle.


[The ad] features Barb and Don Crawford from Cicero, New York and their two daughters — one straight, one gay. Their straight daughter married a man she fell in love with three years ago. Their gay daughter met a woman she fell in love with 12 years ago. They have a child, and are still waiting to marry.

The ad will go statewide in the coming weeks.


New York Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill

May 13, 2009

daniel-odonnellThe outcome was not surprising but the path was: the bill received support from five Republicans and several members who voted against the bill in 2007.

Much of the bill’s support can be linked to the work of the Assembly’s first openly gay member, Manhattan’s Daniel O’Donnell. The Times ran a brief profile of him yesterday and described his tenacious, aggressive, and sometimes flirtatious approach to gaining his fellow colleague’s support.

One of his targets was Assemblyman Greg Ball:

He stopped Mr. Ball’s parents while they were visiting the Capitol, and asked them to urge their son to back the measure. He cornered Mr. Ball in a statehouse elevator, and taunted him: vote for same-sex marriage, or you won’t get invited to my engagement party.

Mr. O’Donnell has even told Mr. Ball, a square-jawed former Air Force captain, that he was “the best looking guy in the Assembly, and he owed it to the gays to vote yes.”

“Did I think that overt flirtation was going to get Greg Ball to vote yes?” Mr. O’Donnell recalled. “Didn’t know. But I was going to try.”

And, since I know you want it: here’s a photo of Greg Ball (and yes, he’s handsome).

To read more of Daniel O’Donnell’s profile go here. More on the Assembly’s vote here.

No date has been set for when the Senate will tackle the bill.

New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery On Marriage Equality

May 4, 2009

Velmanette MontgomeryI recently wrote my New York State Senator – Ms. Velmanette Montgomery – asking her to support marriage equality in NY state and she replied with this:

Thank you for contacting me about the upcoming marriage legislation.

New York State has resumed the long overdue process of providing equal civil rights to all its citizens. This is not a political issue; it is simple, equitable justice. The right to marry as two people see fit is a fundamental civil right that should be enjoyed by all New York’s citizens. It cannot be limited by legislation. It cannot be denied to any to accommodate the limiting exclusions of others. It is simply the right thing to do. This is what I have always believed, my entire life.

In 1977 when my friend Gary Deane became the first openly gay man to run for New York City Council, Ruby Nottage (at the time a District Leader) and I worked on his campaign. We worked hard because he was our friend and would have been a terrific City Council member. His narrow loss was the first of many steps toward making sexual orientation a non-issue in the public arena. Today we are taking another significant step for equality for all New Yorkers.

I am looking forward to receiving an award from the Lambda Independent Democrats next month, an organization started by Gary Deane, Peter Vogel, and other friends. And I am looking forward to working with Tom Duane, as I have always done before, to see that the civil right to marry is finally available to all New York citizens. It is simply the right thing to do.

And when that civil right is finally law, it will be a wonderful day. And I am very much looking forward to it!

– Senator Velmanette Montgomery

And it’s official: I LOVE HER.

Find out who your NYS Assemblyperson and Senator is and write them now.

PS: The assembly was scheduled to vote on the gay marriage bill this week but the clusterfuck that is the MTA’s “budget” may delay the vote. Write your representative now!

Syracuse’s Post-Standard Newspaper Calls For Marriage Equality

April 23, 2009

More good news on the NY marriage equality front:

First: Paterson introduces a gay-marriage bill.
: Word that Republicans will be allowed to “vote their conscience.”
My home-city newspaper has come out in support of marriage equality!

syracuse_nyThe editorial, from the heart of the state, calls marriage equality “a civil right” and draws considerable strength from  the lies and fear-mongering of the recently launched National Organization for Marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage says the best argument against gay marriage is that “gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose; they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

That reasoning has many happily married heterosexuals scratching their heads. How, exactly, would granting gays the right to marry adversely affect heterosexual couples? How would it weaken families?

Arguments against gay marriage tend to be based on religious beliefs that marriage is a sacred rite intended solely for a man and a woman. But the legislation proposed by Gov. David Paterson would legalize gay and lesbian participation in civil marriages, not religious ceremonies. The bill specifically states that “no member of the clergy may be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony.”


Likewise, the organization declares on its Web site that gay marriage would result in children being taught that “one-half of humanity — either mothers or fathers — are dispensable, unimportant. … Children are confused enough right now with sexual messages. Let’s not confuse them further.”

The argument is a shameless scare tactic. If anything, legalizing same-sex marriage would provide children with a clearer understanding of — and a greater tolerance for — the immutable fact that some people have different sexual orientations than others.

While New York State as a whole votes reliably Democrat in Presidential elections, many of Upstate’s counties lean Republican. Onondaga County, home to Syracuse, went 58.5% Obama and 39.8% McCain in the 2008 election but its more rural neighbor, Madison County, where I’m from, went to McCain by a hair: 49.4% McCain and 48.5% Obama. (Full map.)

In related news, Paterson recently reversed course and said that instead of supporting the bill for an immediate vote – regardless of its chance for passage – he will defer to State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith to introduce the bill only when its passage can be secured.

While this strategy has obvious advantages, I think I sit in the minority opinion when I say that any action is better than no action. Plus, I’m not sure I want to rely on the “most dysfunctional legislature in the nation” to choose when to provide me my marriage rights.

Related Play Happy posts on:
National Organization For Marriage

David Paterson
New York State