Today, in an incredibly rare move, the Senate voted down a bill – this one to legalize same-sex marriage.
Disappointing though the result might be, the bill’s failure symbolized a departure from business as usual in the Senate, and gave advocates for marriage equality a critical tool in pushing similar legislation next year.
During debate on the bill, Sen. Diaz, one of the eight democrats who voted against the legislation, called Majority Leader Malcolm Smith “treasonous” for not keeping his word with respect to a deal reached last January that included Smith’s promise to keep the marriage bill from coming to the floor for a vote in exchange for Diaz’s participation in the Democratic caucus. Normally, a bill only reaches the floor with the approval of chamber leadership and a guarantee of passage.
But today, for the first time, the Senate created a public record as to where its members stand on the issue of marriage. While some Senators were outspoken in their support for or opposition to the bill, it was never 100% clear until today who the five or six democratic holdouts were, and the fact that the bill lost by the margin it did was a surprise to most who have been following this issue closely.
Openness and accountability are critically important to representative government. In the past, leadership has shielded members from having to take votes on controversial issues and the result has been that voters haven't known who to blame for a bill's failure to pass. That's bad for
One thing we are pretty sure of is that many, many New Yorkers will know how their Senators voted on gay marriage when they go to the polls next November. That's the kind of significant information they haven't had in the past. The majority of New Yorkers who support same-sex marriage and those who oppose it will now have a better opportunity to make sure that their views are reflected in the votes of their elected representatives.
UPDATE: In a previous version of this post, we indicated that the Senate has voted down a bill on only one other occasion in recent memory. We were incorrect. During two of the Senate's post-coup all-nighters, a total of three bills were voted down on the floor. An additional two bills were tabled due to a lack of support on the floor, again after the coup. We stand corrected.