Bedford-Stuyvesant residents reacted with either joy or dismay Friday night, following news that state legislators had just passed a bill making gay marriage legal in New York.
Yes, it's official: The Republican-led Senate rallied enough votes -- 33 to 29 -- to pass the groundbreaking Same-Sex Marriage Bill. And once it is signed by the governor, the bill will become law.
Although the majority of those interviewed around Bed-Stuy expressed excitement about the new law, others remained in strong opposition. And interestingly, the split between opinions seemed to fall along generational lines, with Baby Boomers -- those born between 1946 and 1964 -- and their children generally not supportive of the legislation, while younger residents were either joyous or indifferent.
“I don’t feel that it’s right. I just don’t feel that gay people should be treated as an ethnic group or a certain class of people. Sexual preference is not the same thing as race,” said Kay Brown, 53. “I don’t think two men who are together can raise a boy to be a man. But you get in trouble if you think otherwise these days, because people think it’s offensive.”
“I think it makes for a healthier society when people are in stable relationships, so yeah, why not?” said Karima Latifah, 26, who was in Brooklyn visiting a friend. Latifah added that she works for the AIDS Society of Houston, and many of her colleagues are gay. “Everyone deserves the right to be happy.”
Robert Smith, 24, was bubbling with excitement. He said passing the equality in marriage act was a long time coming and long overdue.
“This is an historical moment,” said Smith of Crown Heights. He was sitting with a friend in Sweet Revenge, a Bed-Stuy bar, when he heard the news. “People have been waiting a really long time for this; the gay rights movement has invested so much time on this, and I think it’s time.”
Although the bill passed with relative ease in the State Assembly, it stalled for weeks in the Senate. Eventually, all but one Democratic senator – Ruben Diaz of the Bronx – got got on board, leaving the deciding votes primarily in the Republicans’ hands.
Governor Andrew Cuomo rallied for the bill's passage and Mayor Michael Bloomberg also supported the legislation. Slowly, one-by-one Republican Senators started coming around in support of the bill. Anticipation ran high. But by 8:00pm, there were only 31 senators in favor, one vote shy of a majority.
Finally, veteran Republican senator Stephen Saland, who had been undecided, said he would vote in support of the gay marriage bill, signaling the final deciding vote. Saland had voted against a similar bill in 2009, helping to put on hold one of the most important agenda items of the gay rights movement.
“While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience,” Saland said in a statement to the AP. “I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.”
And in Bed-Stuy, many of its longtime residents were indeed disappointed, stating they felt the bill was going too far.
“Most of these politicians have been punked in this city, running around pandering to the gay community, instead of focusing on the things that are more important to the respective communities that they [serve], “ said Joe Gonzales. “[Legalizing gay marriage] is the most horrendous thing that has ever come around, and it's nothing but a money laundering scam.”
“It’s not right; we’re not ready for this,” said Dr. Kim Best, president of 79th Police Precinct Council and a pastor at a church in Bed-Stuy. “Only because, from a Biblical standpoint, it’s not something that God wants.”
Governor Cuomo has 30 days to sign the bill into law, at which time New York will become the sixth and most populous state where gay marriage is legal.
“This is something I’ve thought about dreamed about and hoped would happen,” said Smith. “But I think finding a good man in New York City is going to be a lot harder than it was getting this bill passed.”