Gay-Rights Activists on Duane’s Uncomfortable Calculus

State Senator Tom Duane has reportedly entertained the idea of aligning with Republicans in the State Senate in exchange for them bringing same-sex marriage legislation to the floor for a vote.

The fact that he’s even considering an alliance with Republicans is a striking turnaround. During a November 28 forum last year about same-sex marraige, Duane told the audience that Democratic senators like Ruben Diaz, Sr., shouldn’t cross the aisle to block the marriage legislation.

Duane said his message to Diaz was “that you’re a Democrat and you need to vote for a Democratic leader.”

Now, apparently, Duane is considering another option.

The head of the state’s largest gay lobbying group, Alan Van Capelle, issued a public statement that called on lawmakers to vote on the marriage legislation, not making any mention of party alliance.

“Our issues are not partisan issues,” said Mr. Van Capelle, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda in a public statement. “We urge the Senate to schedule these votes as soon as possible before the end of the legislative session.”

Cory Johnson, a Democratic operative who is gay, seemed to side with Empire State Pride Agenda on the acceptablility of Duane crossing party lines to achieve a result on gay marriage.

In an email to me, Johnson wrote, “Tom Duane has fought his entire career making the lives of LGBT people better in the state of New York and I have full trust in his political instincts and legislative skills” and “I have confidence that Tom is doing all that he can to move the ball forward for gay and lesbian couples and families before this legislative session ends.”

Some Democratic gay-rights activists are less comfortable about the possibility.

“I’m allergic to Republicans,” said LGBT activist Allen Roskoff, who once worked for Duane.

Referring to the Empire State Pride Agenda, Roskoff said, “It’s totally appropriate for them to seek passage of the LGBT agenda as they are doing; however, as a multi-issued person, I feel it’s inappropriate to play ball with the Republicans in a way that will give them power and credibility and electability.”

“Of course I don’t want him to do it,” said Alan Fleishman, a Democratic district leader from Park Slope, referring to Duane.

In an email to me, he wrote, “Tom’s fought long and hard on this issue and many in the LGBT community are concerned that passage this year may be slipping away from us. However that is no reason to join the turncoats and the Republicans who have never been friendly to the LGBT community in the legislature. Duane should work to get the dissidents back with the Democratic majority.”

More on Duane’s calculations from Paul Schindler of Gay City News here:

“Whether Duane, were he to make his bet, and bed, with Skelos, would be able to pick up enough GOP support to offset some Democrats not yet sold on gay marriage who would now be less likely to do him a favor is also unclear — as is what degree of blowback he could expect from longtime allies on issues such as tenants’ rights, choice, drug reform, medical marijuana, and healthcare.”

UPDATE: And Liz has more on the topic here.

Gay-Rights Activists on Duane’s Uncomfortable Calculus