By Kathy Daley
CALLICOON Last Sunday, State Sen. Thomas Duane and his partner Louis Webre strolled Greenwich Village with family, soaking in the happy atmosphere.
Two days before, Albany lawmakers had taken the historic step of legalizing same-sex marriage, and New York City celebrated in style at a gay pride event in Harlem, the Gay Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue on Sunday and street parties in various Manhattan neighborhoods.
“Now New York State can join five other states (Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa) as well as Washington, D.C., in providing full equality for all families,” Duane said this week.
The state senator from the 29th District in New York City, a Democrat who owns homes in Manhattan and Callicoon, lauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for making marriage equality a key issue, and he also praised local efforts to get the Marriage Equality bill enacted into law.
To gays, “Sullivan County is a very welcoming place,” he said, “and there has been an active and hard-working LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community here.”
“I salute all the people who worked so hard,” he said, singling out Kathy Reiser of North Branch. Reiser is the host/producer of “Out, Loud, and Queer” on WJFF Radio and founder and producer of Day to be Gay in the Catskills.
On his website, Duane pointed out the historical significance of the marriage bill’s passage. But he added “the paradoxical truth is that what already exists and will not change but for true legal recognition is the commitment and love that is already the reality in so many of New York's families.”
The bill passed by a final vote of 33 to 29, with some Republicans holding out for stronger legal protections for religious organizations that object to same-sex marriages.
Sen. Duane said the final bill spelled out the existing New York State human rights law, which says that neither religious organizations nor benevolent organizations are required to provide access to their facilities "as a public accommodation."
In hailing the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, Governor Cuomo lauded Duane’s role, saying, “I commend… his lifetime commitment to fighting for equality for all New Yorkers.”
In a press release, Senate Democratic Conference Leader John L. Sampson said: “No one in the Senate has done more than Tom Duane to lead the fight for Equality, the fight for Dignity, the fight for GENDA, the HIV Rent Cap, or funding for research and health programs.
“He has truly been our moral compass the champion of the least, last, and lost. Anyone who has heard Tom speak knows he doesn’t just change votes; he changes hearts and minds. He has changed the way we work together, the way we see each other, and the way we respect and love one another. I am proud to call him my friend, and in the fight for Marriage Equality my Leader.”
An April 2011 Siena College survey found that 58 percent of New York voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, 36 percent were opposed and 6 percent either had no opinion or did not know about the issue.