Sunday, April 29, 2007

Joe Bruno Sez: Support Capital Punishment, Not Civil Rights!

Politicians often have a bad reputation for being advantageous and using any passionate issues to advance their own agendas or to block those of their opponents. Unfortunately, there has frequently been sufficient justification for the public's perception, particularly in the pretzel logic that Republicans employ. This tactic is now being used in a confrontation between the Executive and Legislative branches over recognizing the civil rights of gay New Yorkers.

Recently-elected Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer yesterday fulfilled a campaign pledge to provide civil marriage equality in New York State by legislation with the following provisions:
* A marriage that is otherwise valid under the law will be valid
regardless of the sex of the individuals; Government treatment, legal status, and all rights, benefits, privileges, protections or responsibilities relating to marriage will be equal for all individual parties who enter into marriage regardless of the sex of their
* No application for a marriage license will be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same, or a different, sex, and;
* In consideration of private, ethical and religious beliefs, no clergy member or religious institution will be compelled to perform any

New York can become one of a small, but growing number of states - many in a Northeastern bloc - that have been acknowledging the same personal commitments that members of the gay community make as do their hetero brethren. However, as the New York Times notes,
Even in a progressive state like New York, this will be a steep political climb. So far, only Massachusetts has enacted a gay marriage law — after its highest court held that gay couples had a right under the State Constitution — and while there is a similar bill working its way through the Connecticut legislature, its prospects are uncertain. Civil unions or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples are now recognized by a small but growing number of states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, California, Hawaii and Maine.

Legislative support is uncertain; even in our Democratically-controlled State Assembly, the Speaker, Sheldon Silver, is temporizing. But, with sufficient lobbying, it may be possible to get that body to do the right thing. In the Republican-controlled Senate, however, the outlook is more dim, thanks to today's strategy by NYS Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno(R-43rd) to use a recent tragedy to deride the Governor's proposal and the moral fiber of the Assembly Democrats.

This past week in my neighboring county, a State Trooper was killed, another wounded, and a third escaped injury only because of his bullet-proof vest. The apparent assailant died in a house fire that started during the shootout, and it appears that the slain officer was a victim of 'friendly fire.' Senator Bruno has seized upon this tragedy to try to derail the Governor's initiative.

Bruno said: This governor has his priorities wrong... given the fatal shooting of a state trooper this week, Spitzer should be worried more about bringing back the death penalty for those who kill police officers. Bruno's continued opposition effectively blocks the measure from moving ahead in the state Legislature for now.

He also noted the 'Last Wednesday 97 NYS Assembly Democrats voted against an amendment to enact the death penalty for people who kill police officers.'

Now, whatever your position on the death penalty - and, I must confess, I have mixed feelings about its application when I consider premeditated murderers, torturers, or sociopathic 'mad-dogs' - Bruno's position is nothing but a blocking tactic, because I suspect that most members of our Legislature are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. I understand that 'blocking that kick' is a time-honoured strategy in parliamentary maneuvering. I would not have been so offended if Senator Bruno had wanted to argue about 'more complex' priorities such as the New York State economy - oh, wait, he did give it secondary placement! - but doesn't it always seem that the Republicans are so swift to exploit tragedy, fear, and suffering, to their own ends?

As Daffy puts it, 'It's death-PICABLE!'

Well, I just spent the last forty-five minutes using the Google to find the Republican/Democrat numbers in the NYS Senate, to no avail; but I know that last year, we narrowed the margin. Even though he is not in my district, I will certainly be working in the next round of elections to unseat Mr. Bruno and turn the New York State Senate Blue. I know many people in my county who flocked to my college town of New Paltz for the brief Spring in 2004, when Mayor Jason West decided to unilaterally begin marrying same-sex couples. Many of them still wear their wedding rings, as a promise that they made to each other.

It's time for New York to recognize their commitment, and to make a commitment in return, for full civil rights.