Queens Chronicle, November 12, 2009
Same-sex marriage rights activists held a candlelight vigil in Astoria on Sunday in hopes of pressing state Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria) to vote for a proposed bill that would legalize gay unions.
Onorato has said he will vote against the measure if it comes to a vote.
Demonstrators stood outside the senator’s office with candles, made phone calls to his office and are encouraging his other constituents to follow suit.
Some of the attendees called themselves straight allies of the LGBT community, while others, who are gay, said they are unhappy that they have to leave the state to marry.
Julia Lund is a 29-year-old designer who has been living in Astoria with her partner for five years. The couple is engaged but don’t know where they will be able to have their wedding.
“If we have to move, we will,” Lund said. “But we’re truly hoping we don’t have to.”
A National Geographic study on ancestry and DNA named Astoria one the most ethnically and racially diverse areas in the country, Lund said, and with that much diversity, activists say it shouldn’t be hard to extend marriage rights to the gay community.
“For the senator to support the majority of citizens while discriminating against a small group is unacceptable,” Lund said.
Lund, who has met with Onorato twice, said he cited religious concerns and a “gut feeling” as his reasons for opposing same-sex marriage.
Janet Kash, a spokeswoman for Onorato, said the senator believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Brandon Brock organized last weekend’s vigil with a group called Western Queens for Marriage Equality when the possibility of a vote on Tuesday was announced. Brock said he was also prompted by last week’s referendum in Maine that shot down a court ruling in favor of same sex marriage.
“It sort of reminded us that we really need to push the buttons and try to do as much as we can,” he said.
Brock said activists are also interested in influencing Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), who has not made his position on gay marriage clear. But they said they are more concerned with Onorato because of the demographics of his district.
“Astoria and Sunnyside are really gay,” Brock said. “There are a lot of gay people here so to be represented by someone who is not supporting our rights is ridiculous.”
Kash said the vigil did not change Onorato’s mind.
“He respects their views very deeply,” she said, adding that the senator has considered the emails and phone calls he has received but that he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.
Gov. David Paterson had asked that the state Senate vote on same-sex marriage during a special session on Tuesday, but that vote has now been postponed indefinitely. The bill has already passed the state Assembly, but it needs 32 votes to pass the Senate. Democrats hold a slim 32-30 majority but several, including Onorato, have expressed opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage. Some Republicans would have to vote in favor to assure passage, and as of this week not enough have publicly expressed support.
If the bill passes, New York will join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire in allowing gay marriage. Currently, the state recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries.
Voters in 31 states have rejected gay marriage legislation in referendums.