On July, 2, 1776, the greatest question of American liberty was posed to the 2nd Continental Congress in Philadelphia. After weeks of debate, it had been decided that the vote to declare independence from England, the 13 colonies had to vote unanimously. James Wilson of Pennsylvania had joined with more conservative colleagues, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, Robert Livingston of New York, and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Together, they successfully caused a 3-week delay in the vote for independence. Wilson didn’t feel that we were ready for this change. As a country, he didn’t believe we were “ripe” enough to be on our own.
When the time came for the vote that would forever change the course of our history, Wilson arguably became the deciding vote when Pennsylvania voted 3-2 to declare our independence from England. When faced with the question of what this country was about, Wilson saw that his vote could be the deciding factor between oppression and freedom. He chose freedom.
Today, the New York State Senate will again debate marriage equality after the Assembly passed it last night with an 80-63 vote. In order for New York to pass the Marriage Equality Bill, which would mean freedom for all New Yorkers to marry and be protected equally under our laws, the bill must garner 32 votes. As of right now, there are 31 votes and several undecided senators. With so many undecided Republican senators, it’s hard to find someone who will be a real leader and break from the pack to truly represent all their constituents.
For months now, Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, NY has said that he would vote against the marriage equality bill, but now he has declared that he is “undecided.” Grisanti is clearly wrestling with the idea and met with Governor Cuomo on Tuesday night to discuss the bill. While he has still not said how he will vote, some see him as the deciding vote on marriage equality in New York.
So over the next 24-48 hours, Grisanti will continue to balance out the weight of this important decision. He must ask himself if he wants to be remembered as a bold leader who bravely chose to protect all New Yorkers or if he wants to stick with the status quo, leaving his LGBT constituents to flounder in inequality. This is no small decision for Grisanti, but we can hope that he will take a page out of James Wilson’s book. We can hope that he will see that New York and America are more than ready to live up to the standards set forth in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal.
Stand on the right side of history, Senator Grisanti.
UPDATE: Last night, in a vote of 33 to 29, the New York Senate voted to approve marriage equality in the state. Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo said to his Republican colleagues who were voting against the bill:
“The issue of same-sex marriage was never a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Catholic sense of my upbringing.”
“As a Catholic, I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m not here, however, as a senator who is just Catholic. I’m also here with a background as an attorney. To which I look at things and I apply reason.”
“I have studied this issue. To those who know me, they know I have struggled with it.”
“I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife, who I love, or to have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her”