A forum about same-sex marriage last week at the L.G.B.T. Center in Chelsea earlier in the week turned into a pointed debate over how to respond to three rebellious Democrats in the State Senate.
Early in the nearly two-hour long event, the panelists and audience members turned their attention to Pedro Espada, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Carl Kruger, who, by not supporting fellow Democrat Malcolm Smith as majority leader, are seen as the main impediments to a vote to legalize same-sex marriage.
State Tom Duane, a panelist, said his message to Espada (and presumably, the other other holdouts) is “that you’re a Democrat and you need to vote for a Democratic leader.”
But the head of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Alan Van Capelle, said the focus should be on the persuadable legislators outside New York City, and not critics in the five boroughs.
Capelle said, “this is not a majority decision in this state” and that organizing in Manhattan was simply “wasting money.” In order to pick up the needed votes, “we have to be on Long Island, we have to be in Corning, we have to be in Rochester and Buffalo.” Capelle said the objections from Diaz and Espada were the outcomes of senate politics, and therefore, not persuadable by protests and public pressure.
“Ruben Diaz wants to pick a fight with this community. He does, because he raises money off of it. You want to beat Ruben Diaz? Go win marriage equality and go win somebody’s vote outside New York City,” Capelle said. He added, “Every minute we spend focusing on someone whose vote we know we’re not going to get is a minute we’re not talking to someone whose vote we could get. That’s where we have to invest our time: doing something that yields a result.”
“With all due respect as an activist,” said Jeff Campagna, who organized a major same-sex marriage protest outside City Hall recently, “I have a little problem with what you’re saying.” He said, “My solution is to call Ruben Diaz. And I’m angry at what he’s doing and I want to hold him accountable.” At that line, a few people in the crowd applauded.
“Everybody here that called Ruben Diaz spent about two minutes doing that, and I don’t think that diminished their ability to go on your web site,” Campagna said.