NY marriage: It took 29 Democrats to get the 4 Republicans

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how the marriage campaign succeeded in New York. Two of the best were the recap by Michael Barbaro in the New York Times and Paul Schindler’s interview with Governor Cuomo.

A lot of focus is on the four GOP Senators who finally voted yes. But, the victory probably wouldn’t have happened if the Democratic caucus didn’t deliver 29 of its 30 votes.

In December of 2009, the vote was 24 – 38 against the marriage bill. During the 2010 cycle, two anti-marriage Democrats, Hiram Monserrate from Queens and William Stachowski from Buffalo, lost their seats to pro-marriage Dems, thanks, in part to the work of Fight Back NY.

For much of the session, the vote count was stuck at 26 yes votes in the Senate. But, on June 13th, the marriage battle in moved to fast track. On that day, three Democratic Senators who voted no in 2009 — Joe Addabbo, Shirley Huntley and Carl Kruger — publicly announced they were voting yes this year. Those three stood with their Conference leader, John Sampson, the bill’s sponsor, Tom Duane, and Governor Cuomo, to make that announcement. They joined the 26 other members of the conference to create a formidable bloc.

Bringing 29 Democratic votes to the table strengthened the hand of the Governor. Clearly, if marriage failed, it would not be the fault of the Democratic Senators. Once that happened, the pressure was on the Senate GOP. Did they really want to be the ones responsible for defeating marriage or not even having a vote? That was their dilemma for those final weeks of the session.

Also, one key thing to note, aside from Diaz, every minority Senator (all of whom are Democrats) voted yes. That’s very significant moving forward — and a real blow to the efforts of NOM and others to create conflict (think Maryland.)

Even though the Democrats did not have magic 32, having 29 was critical and provided a firm foundation to get the GOP votes. As we write the history and learn lessons from New York, I don’t think we should ever overlook that.

Seven Senators who were no votes switched to yes during the session. That’s 11% of the New York Senate. If we could do that in Congress, it would mean 11 more supportive Senators and 49 more House members on our side. I’d like to think that it’s possible — and in the near future. But, it’s going to take a lot of work and a very serious campaign with real leadership. That’s how they did it in NY.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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