Gillibrand Hopes For Some Momentum from Marriage Bill


On Friday evening, as the drama over same-sex marriage was reaching a crescendo in Albany, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was stuck on an Acela train headed to Washington, D.C.

“I couldn’t watch any of it because there was no television,” she told The Observer in a phone call on Monday afternoon.

In the weeks leading up to Friday’s vote, Gillibrand had reached out to each of the state Senators who were publicly undecided, and, in the final week, had spoken again to Republican Senators Stephen Saland and Roy McDonald.

But, as Saland announced his vote on the Senate floor–making clear the bill would have the 32 votes for a majority–Gillibrand could only receive the news by text. (One of her aides, Jon Reinish, had taken leave to join the effort in Albany.)

“They were giving me minute-by-minute updates, which was really fun,” said Gillibrand, who, within a few hours, had agreed to officiate at two weddings. “We were celebrating on the middle of the Acela.”

For Gillibrand, the hope now is that Albany’s action might lead to some celebrations in Washington.

“I do believe that New York will now lead the nation in a wave of equality and justice for all,” she said. “I think it will strengthen our mission and our goals on the federal level.”

Gillibrand has been pushing for same-sex marriage since her appointment to the Senate in January of 2009, reassuring gay-rights groups that she would fight–not just for civil unions and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act–but for full “marriage equality.” (That made her New York’s first senator to take such a position; Senator Chuck Schumer, who had voted for DOMA, would follow suit a few months later.)

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