Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Malcolm's Gay Pride Goeth Before the Fall?

According to the NY Post, Senator Ruben Diaz has drawn a line in the sand on gay rights-withholding support from anyone who can't give him a written guarantee on not moving legislation in this area: "Gay marriage emerged as a central issue in the fight for control of the Senate yesterday, after a key lawmaker vowed to withhold support from any leader who would push to legalize same-sex nuptials. Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of The Bronx - one of three rogue Democrats threatening to spoil the party's hard-fought rise to Senate dominance in January - called on Democratic leader Malcolm Smith to pledge publicly not to advance the issue."

This puts Smith, who has said that economic issues are his priority, on the hot seat-particularly since the gay rights groups have spent lavishly to change the leadership of the senate: "The Assembly voted last year to legalize gay marriage, but the bill died in the Republican-run Senate. Gay groups donated heavily to Democratic Senate candidates this year."

With Diaz holding out, and Senators Espada and Kruger remaining firmly arrayed against Smith, the senate is potentially rudderless: "Democrats gained at least two seats in the 62-seat Senate last week, potentially giving the party a majority for the first time since 1965 and toppling the Republicans' last outpost of statewide power. But celebrations have been postponed by Diaz and two other dissident Democrats - Sen. Carl Kruger and Sen.-elect Pedro Espada Jr. - who have exploited the chamber's expected 32-30 split to set terms on its leadership. Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, has frequently broken with the Democrats on social issues. The other two renegade Democrats have enjoyed cozy relationships with Republicans amid feuds with their party."

All of which exacerbates the fiscal showdown that will commence with the governor's special session next week. Diaz, for his part, doesn't trust the verbal assurances from Smith-believing, no doubt, that verbal contracts aren't worth the paper they're printed on: "Just give it to me in writing that you will not bring the gay marriage to the floor and you got me," Diaz told The Post."

Still, even if Malcolm is able to get the gay groups to go along with the Diaz demand, who does the Reverend go to for redress if Smith, or any other leader, goes back on his word? And even with Diaz in the fold, the Dems remain two votes short. As one Albany insider told the NY Daily News' Bob Kapstatter (no link found): If Malcolm doesn't find a way to bring Kruger and Espada into the Dems tent, "He's screwed."