TV & Radio
Religious groups lead New York gay pride parade
The Associated Press
Sunday, June 24, 2007
NEW YORK: Religious groups including Christians, Jews and Buddhists led the New York gay pride parade, lending gravity to the often outrageous event that celebrates the night patrons of a gay bar in Manhattan resisted a police raid.
"We stand for a progressive religious voice," said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York City's Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. "Those who use religion to advocate an anti-gay agenda I believe are blaspheming God's name."
Kleinbaum, who heads the world's largest predominantly gay synagogue, and the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, were the parade's grand marshals Sunday, waving from his-and-hers convertibles.
The march took place days after the New York State Assembly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, which Governor Eliot Spitzer supports. Although the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate any time soon, parade-goers said they were cheered by the Assembly's action.
"This is one very important step toward full equality for all New Yorkers," Kleinbaum said.
As in past years, there was exhibitionism on display as the parade inched down Fifth Avenue and into Greenwich Village. Revelers gyrated in bikini briefs and marched in spike heels.
But the placement of the religious organizations near the head of the march — ahead of AIDS service groups and political advocacy groups — gave them unaccustomed prominence.
A Buddhist group carried signs that said "Construct Dignity in Your Heart" and "Don't Block Your Buddha."
The gay Roman Catholic group Dignity had a float and a giant rainbow flag. Jeff Stone, secretary of the New York chapter, said he was hopeful that the church would someday change its stance opposing homosexuality.
"We see that the opinion of ordinary Catholics is changing," he said. "Eventually what happens at the grass roots percolates up in the church."
Toni Cinanni of Perth, Australia, said she was surprised at the prominence of the church groups.
"I thought the religious groups had hijacked the parade," she said. "I couldn't put it together, religion and sexuality."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg marched with officials including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is one of the most prominent openly gay elected officials in the United States.
There were contingents of gay police officers and firefighters as well as ethnic gay groups including South Asians, Haitians and American Indians.
The annual gay pride parade, one of dozens that takes place around the world, commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots when patrons at a Greenwich Village gay bar fought back against a police raid.
In California, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, kicked off San Francisco's annual gay pride parade Sunday by splitting with her husband over support for legalized gay marriage.
"I don't know why someone else's marriage has anything to do with me," Mrs. Edwards said at a news conference before the parade started. "I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage."
She made the remark almost offhandedly in answering a question from reporters after she delivered a standard campaign speech during a breakfast hosted by a local political organization.
She conceded her support puts her at odds with her husband, a former senator from North Carolina who she said supports civil unions among gay couples — but not same-sex marriages.
"John has been pretty clear about it, that he is very conflicted," she said. "He has a deeply held belief against any form of discrimination, but that's up against his being raised in the 1950s in a rural southern town."
No serious presidential candidate for the 2008 election from either major political party has publicly supported gay marriage.
The New York Times
June 25, 2007
The Empire Zone
Personal Victory for Assemblyman on Gay Marriage
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
ALBANY — His sister Rosie is the celebrity in the family. (You may have caught her in “A League of Their Own” or on “The View.”) But Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Manhattan assemblyman, got his own dose of fame during the climactic Assembly debate last week over a bill seeking to legalize same-sex marriage.
Mr. O’Donnell, the bill’s sponsor, who is gay, fielded more than an hour of questions from his colleagues, many of them hostile. Then he gave an impassioned and highly personal speech that was by turns comic (“I want a license that all of you have; some of you have had it two or three times”) and poignant (“All gay people, when they realize who they are, live in fear”). His companion, John Banta, stood nearby, and they embraced after Mr. O’Donnell, below, finished the speech.
Not everyone was convinced. Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb, a Republican from Canandaigua, said he felt personally “threatened” by the legislation; Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat from Brooklyn, suggested including a provision to legalize incest.
But the bill passed, 85 to 61, making New York only the second state in which one or both houses of the legislature have approved same-sex marriage legislation without being compelled by a court to do so, according to Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights advocacy group. (In the first, California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.)
Though Gov. Eliot Spitzer supports the bill, Senate leaders declined to take it up. Still, gay rights advocates have hailed the Assembly vote as a huge symbolic victory.
“I mostly just thought about it as I was lying in bed at night,” Mr. O’Donnell, 47, said of his speech. “We walked on the floor with 79 votes. So to get to 85, people who were noes or maybes had to be swayed by the debate.” Afterward, he said, “some people told me that they couldn’t vote against me personally. Some people said they figured out that all the reasons to vote ‘no’ were political, and that they had decided to let their personal views dictate their vote.”
Boons for Consumers
At least two new pieces of law, should the governor approve them, are likely to make New Yorkers happy. One is the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights, introduced by Assemblyman Michael N. Gianaris of Queens after the nationwide flight delays in February. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. of Long Island, requires that airlines provide water, fresh air, food and clean bathrooms if loaded planes are kept on the ground at New York airports for more than three hours.
“Passengers have long complained about declining service on airlines, but this is ridiculous,” said Mr. Gianaris, above, noting that during the February delays, some passengers were stuck on planes at New York City-area airports for hours at a time. “People in prison camps don’t get treated this badly.”
The second piece of legislation eliminates the 4 percent sales tax the city charges on clothing and shoes costing more than $110. City officials and business leaders argued that the tax gave an advantage to retailers in neighboring states that do not levy such a charge. The bill, sponsored in the Assembly by Herman D. Farrell Jr. of Manhattan and in the Senate by Frank Padavan of Queens, passed on Thursday — and will soon take effect at a department store near you.
City Lobbyists Weigh In
New York City officials managed to stall legislation that would have made it harder for them to lease buildings for school space as part of the city’s five-year capital plan.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Queens persuaded her colleagues to approve a bill that would require leased school facilities to go through the same approval process as newly built schools — including approval by the City Council and the state’s stringent environmental review process. Community and environmental advocates, citing past cases in which the city leased buildings on polluted or contaminated ground, said the reviews were necessary.
But city lobbyists have insisted that the more than 30 leased facilities in their plan do not require Council or state environmental approval, and that the buildings in question have been carefully inspected for any potential danger to the students who would occupy them. They also said that a lengthy review process would make it impossible to close leasing deals with the property owners. And they persuaded Mr. Padavan, left, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, to hold off.
“Contrary to what has been asserted, the School Construction Authority already conducts thorough environmental reviews as set by the State Department of Environmental Conservation,” said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city.
Advocates for the bill thought they had reached a compromise in the waning days of the session. The deal would have exempted the leases from the state environmental review process and instead required an expedited review involving testing water, soil and air on the properties.
“We had worked out what I thought was a kind of sensible compromise,” said David Palmer, a staff attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
But the city eventually balked again. The sticking point? The bill’s supporters insisted that the City Council have a role in the approval process. “An environmental review process without a political process is almost worthless,” Mr. Palmer said.
Mr. Sklerov said the city “will continue to work with members of the Legislature and the environmental community to address any of their concerns.”